"It's the economy, stupid." It's a phrase attributed to President Bill Clinton's campaign strategist and aide James Carville. And while there are many defining factors of a president's campaign, administration, and legacy, the economy often looms the largest. What sort of economy did the president inherit? And leave behind? Watch a series of short videos exploring the role of the economy in various presidential administrations.
Battle over the Budget
Clinton's "triangulation" strategy was an attempt to take control of the budget from the Republicans in Congress. His own balanced budget plan claimed to balance the federal budget without cutting Medicare and Medicaid. "You know whether or not to balance the budget, we can’t win that fight," says Clinton's Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers. "Once you accept that we’re going to balance the budget now let’s have a fight about what we’re going to cut and what we’re going to protect. That’s a fight we can win."
Carter asked the American people to cut down their energy usage during a fireside chat on February 2, 1977. "All of us must learn to waste less energy," Carter said.
The 1982 Recession
The 1982 recession during the Reagan Administration resulted in high interest rates, homelessness, and unemployment. "We are really in trouble," Reagan confided to his diary.
War on Poverty
President Johnson took on the economy by waging a "war on poverty." "His vision was of helping the disadvantaged to help themselves," Robert Dallek says.
In the summer of 1979, inflation rose to 14 percent. In response, Carter cut the budgets of social programs, leading to criticism from African American leaders and members of the "traditional FDR coalition."
A Sluggish Economy
In the early 1990s, George H.W. Bush was faced with growing economic insecurity. But Bush believed there was little he could do.