We measure progress in the 23 million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was president--when the average American family saw its income go up $7,500 instead of down $2,000 like it has under George Bush.
This reflects the larger trend to equate big-picture economic performance with presidential skill. An economic advisor to Obama was on the Colbert Report last night selling this vision, referrencing Larry Bartels work, which shows that growth is higher under Democrats.
Krugman, of all people, is skeptical Baretels, pointing out that it's difficult to point at any specific policy that's responsible. He figures that partisan-specific monetary policy and different voter behavior in booms and busts are responsible for most of the difference.
But you hear quite a bit about how median incomes are stangant and how we're right to whine. Robert Samuelson is good enough to show how these numbers fail to account for spiraling health costs and immigration. I would add that technology and trade have improved quality of life for a given income level.
But even ignoring all of that, it's hard to link Bush's policies--bad though they may be--to household incomes. Loose monetary policy kept interest rates low, tax cuts and rebates brought money to all income groups, added to which we saw surging domestic discretionary spending. Sure, there's plenty to fault here, and there could have been more redistribution downward. But from the standpoint of raising median household income, it's difficult to think of what Bush should have done. Look at Obama McCain's policies and you see... More of the Same! More tax cuts, more spending.
Whatever. There will be a boom by the time the next president is in office, and in all likelihood we're going to hear that "Democrats are better with the economy." Then there will be some foreign crisis and we'll also hear "But Republicans are better on Foreign Policy."