One of the most difficult games to play in politics is the notion of what might have been… How might things have been different had JFK not been shot? How might have things have been different had Al Gore won in 2000? How might things have been different had Mitt Romney or John McCain not run inept campaigns against Barack Obama?
We’ll never know what the outcomes might have been because there really is no way to objectively measure that when it comes to policy. Would JFK have scaled up Vietnam the way LBJ did or, if he did, would the Camelot mystique have protected him from the vilification that LBJ endured? Had Al Gore been in office on September 11th would we have invaded Iraq as he was on record believing Saddam had WMDs? We can speculate, but we can’t know.
We can however play the game that compares real data between presidents. And now might be a good time for that given we’ve got a presidential election coming. On the one side are candidates seeking to maintain and further the liberal "successes" of Barack Obama, while on the other are a plethora of candidates seeking to harness the spirit of Ronald Reagan, inspired by his less is more approach to government.
And of course the press provides little actionable information when it comes to whose policies really were / are superior. Witness their crowing about the unemployment rate hitting a seven year low without explaining (or understanding for that matter) the cause, which is certainly not a strong economy, but rather because people are exiting the workforce at a rate not seen since the 1970's.
Given that, I've created a simple infographic that just might help. (Click here for a larger image and here to download a high res version) It looks eight measures that shed light on whether a future that furthers the ideas of Obama or Reagan might a better choice. Unlike notions of what might have been, it compares actual outcomes on those eight measures during the first six years of each administration. From inflation to the LFPR to food stamps, hopefully this handy infographic will help make the decision as to who to pull the lever for in 2016 just a little bit easier.