20 noviembre, 2007

Midiendo el éxito económico de los presidentes de EE.UU.

¿Cómo comparar la gestión de las diferentes administraciones al frente del Poder Ejecutivo? El índice de miseria económica permite medir si se está mejor ahora que bajo un gobierno anterior. Los ganadores: Reagan y Kennedy.

Durante los últimos 50 años, ¿bajo cuál presidente funcionó mejor la economía? La mayoría de los norteamericanos dirían que bajo Ronald Reagan, pero algunos analistas demócratas insisten que fue con Bill Clinton o John F. Kennedy. ¿Cuál es la verdad?

Los presidentes influyen particularmente en cuestiones de impuestos, gastos, regulaciones y comercio exterior, asuntos que en gran parte determinan la tasa de crecimiento económico, pero son frenados por el Congreso, si una o ambas cámaras están dominadas por la oposición. Los presidentes influyen menos en la inflación y en las tasas de interés, las cuales son mayormente determinadas por una Reserva Federal (banco central) independiente. El sí influye en la Reserva Federal con el nombramiento de su presidente y directores.

El incremento de la tasa de crecimiento económico, la creación de empleos, reducción de la inflación, de los intereses y de los impuestos son considerados galardones de éxito presidencial. Un presidente que tiene que corregir políticas económicas fracasadas de su antecesor tendrá mayor dificultad en lograr bajo desempleo, por lo que el grado de mejoría respecto al gobierno anterior es una importante medida del éxito, más que los promedios alcanzados al fin de su mandato.

Un conocido economista demócrata, el fallecido Arthur Okun, inventó el índice de miseria económica (la tasa de inflación más la tasa de desempleo), lo cual nos dice claramente si estamos mejor ahora o bajo el gobierno anterior. Con esa medida, tres presidentes (Kennedy, Reagan y Clinton) mejoraron el desempeño de sus predecesores. El índice de miseria económica cayó más bajo Reagan, a sólo 10,1, mientras que subió horriblemente bajo Carter, a 17,9. Reagan fue N°1, seguido por Clinton y Kennedy, mientras que Carter fue el peor de los últimos nueve presidentes.

La tasa de crecimiento económico a menudo se considera la mejor medida del éxito presidencial. Pero tiene que ser utilizada con cuidado porque a menudo toma seis años a un presidente lograr que el Congreso promulgue sus programas de impuestos y de gastos. Por ello conviene retrasar un año esa medida para que al nuevo presidente no se le carguen las culpas ni las virtudes del anterior.

Kennedy gana bajo el criterio del crecimiento. Tuvo la ventaja de llegar a la presidencia a la mitad de una recuperación económica y también tuvo la sabiduría de bajar los impuestos, todo lo cual resultó en altas tasas de crecimiento durante e inmediatamente después de su gobierno.

Reagan ocupa el segundo puesto en crecimiento, pero la economía estaba estancada y sufría de una inflación de dos dígitos cuando asumió la presidencia. Además, sus rebajas de impuestos no fueron efectivas sino en su segundo año. Clinton está en tercer lugar, heredando una economía en crecimiento que sus políticas convirtieron en recesión.

Reagan ocupa el primer puesto en creación de empleos. Durante su gobierno y el de Clinton se crearon unos 17 millones de puestos, pero Reagan lo logró con una fuerza laboral 18% más pequeña.

Tanto Kennedy como Reagan bajaron los impuestos a todos los niveles de ingresos. Kennedy redujo la tasa máxima del impuesto sobre la renta de 91% a 70% y Reagan de 70% a 28%. Ambas acciones impulsaron un auge económico y la recaudación total de impuestos más bien aumentó. Bajo Reagan la recaudación de impuestos aumentó de 599.000 millones de dólares en 1981 a 991.000 millones de dólares en 1989, a pesar de la reducción de impuestos.

Los críticos de Reagan mantienen que su déficit fiscal hizo que la próxima generación cargara con la deuda. Reagan utilizó esa deuda en parte para aumentar los gastos militares durante la Guerra Fría, de la misma manera como Franklin Roosevelt la utilizó para ganar la Segunda Guerra. Al fin del gobierno de Roosevelt la deuda nacional era más del 100% del PIB, mientras que al final del gobierno de Reagan alcanzaba sólo 41% del PIB. Kennedy nos dejó con una deuda equivalente a 42% del PIB; en 1996, al terminar el primer período de Clinton, la deuda equivalía 48%; mientras que hoy equivale a 37%.

Utilizando cualquier medida, Reagan y Kennedy han sido, por mucho, los presidentes más exitosos de los últimos 50 años. Ambos dejaron una economía más fuerte y prácticamente todos los ciudadanos estaban en mejor situación económica y eran más libres que al comienzo de sus administraciones. Reagan confrontó un comienzo más difícil y el gobierno de Kennedy fue muy corto.

Todavía no sabemos lo que dirá la historia sobre el actual presidente Bush, pero su reducción de impuestos está funcionando tan bien como bajo Kennedy y Reagan. Si la Reserva Federal logra mantener baja la inflación y si el gobierno logra reducir los gastos y las regulaciones, George W. Bush, si es reelecto, todavía tiene el chance de terminar entre los primeros tres.

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