Kevin Drum produces a remarkable chart that shows President Barack Obama's clear superiority to his predecessor in helping the economy recover from recession:
Count private employment as a percentage of the labor force, and you see that in five and a half years, President Bush never got private employment back to a larger percentage of the workforce than it was when he took office. Under President Obama, that percentage has climbed steadily higher. President Obama achieved this recovery from a far worse recession than President Bush faced. President Obama has also achieved this recovery without the housing boom that fueled much of President Bush's recovery but which, as Drum reminds us, ended in "an epic global crash."
Drum spots President Bush a few points with a second graph that includes government employment:
We raise President Bush's numbers and lower President Obama's if we include government payrolls.
Bush got a nice tailwind from increased hiring at the state and federal level. Obama, conversely, was sailing into heavy headwinds because he inherited a worse recession. States cut employment sharply—partly because they had to and partly because Republican governors saw the recession as an opportunity to slash the size of government—and Congress was unwilling to help them out in any kind of serious way [Kevin Drum, "The Obama Recovery Has Been Miles Better Than the Bush Recovery," Mother Jones, 2014.12.06].
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: President Barack Obama is beating his predecessor George W. Bush on economic performance. The difference would be even greater if President Obama had grown government the way President Bush did.
Related Reading: Discussing British politics, Simon Wren-Lewis says that ideologues who adopt a "small state" as a matter of principle miss lots of points:
...they are not prepared to look at these items on their merits. Instead they have a blanket ideological distaste for all things to do with government. The evidence that government is ‘always the problem’ is just not there. The idea that private sector activity is always welfare enhancing and is best left alone was blown out of the water by the financial crisis.
...reducing government spending during a liquidity trap recession does real harm. It wastes resources on a huge scale.
...a final problem I have with small state people... is their disregard for the evidence. It is true that most people are bad at acknowledging counter evidence, but those with an ideological conviction are worse than most [Simon Wren-Lewis, "The Imaginary World of Small State People," Mainly Macro, 2014.12.07].