Should Bush’s Economy Earn a Passing Grade?

Avrum D.Lank writes this in Saturday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

With Friday’s report that the Gross Domestic Product grew at a 3.7% annual rate in the third quarter, the economic report card for Bush’s first term was completed. By all historical standards, it provided a passing grade. “Three-point-seven percent is pretty good,” said Thomas M. Holbrook, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who studies the impact of the economy on elections. “It would be highly irregular to see a president turned out of office with GDP growth at that level.”

Think of one term in office as 16 quarters and draw an analogy to a class where students have to take 16 tests. Why would any professor base the student’s grade solely on the performance of test #15? Now had real GDP grown by 3.7% per year for the entire Bush43 term, then this would be more than “pretty good” as it would match the average growth rate for Clinton’s two terms. Over the first 15 quarters, however, the average growth rate has been a mere 2.6% per year, which is less than even the pedestrian growth rate during the Reagan-Bush41 years.

Of course, what is really going on here is the standard cherry-picking and distortions of economic data that we have gotten from the proponents of free-lunch supply-side “economics” over the last generation. And we should not be surprised that this is going on just before tomorrow’s election. After all, this is not about strong economic growth but about those who favor redistributing income towards the wealthy remaining in power. But why does Professor Holbrook make such obviously silly statements – unless the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is engaged in severe grade inflation?