Musical Chairs Elections

It is hardly surprising that voters’ moods and their assessments of the incumbent president are strongly colored by current economic conditions. From the standpoint of good government, however, their myopic focus on current conditions seems quite counter-productive. On one hand, myopic economic voting provides little electoral incentive for presidents to generate income growth through most of their terms, and a perverse incentive to artificially boost election-year growth with tax cuts and other gimmicks. On the other hand, myopic economic voting seems unlikely to contribute to post-election prosperity, since income growth between now and Election Day will shed little real light on whether the economy would fare better over the next four years under Obama or Mitt Romney.

Larry Bartels, in the New York Times.  More here.


One Response to Musical Chairs Elections

  1. idiot April 15, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    Voting based on results however has the obvious benefit however of voters being able to verify what is actually going on and be able to reward incumbents for good economic performance and punish incumbents for bad economic performance. Even in his example, Bartles pointed out that income GREW under Reagan. The fact it grew by only 0.5 % is irrelevant, so long as it grew, and he deserve reelection for that.

    I also am dreadfully afraid that long-term economic thinking can easily be a proxy for “vote based on your ideology and your partisan alignment”. It doesn’t help that those who are educated enough to understand the economy are also those who are most partisan, and thus less likely to change their vote at all. I prefer uneducated, weak partisans who are likely to change their votes than educated strong partisans who will vote for a candidate based on whether they have a R or a D next to their name.

    However, Bartles is right that the President have very little impact on the economy…Congress (in charge of fiscal policy) and the Federal Reserve (in charge of monetary policy) have probably more impact. So the system Bartles described is still flawed, but only because the President doesn’t deserve any credit or blame for the economy, NOT becuase of “vote myopiciness”.