Dismal Chart

The Federal Reserve statistics on capacity utilization released today show the speed and depth of the economic decline and the sup-par performance of the Bush economy before the current recession. They also highlight the superior performance during the Clinton administration — compared to the last 40 years, not just the last eight.

A chart of Fed statistics on Industrial Capacity Utilization released today shows the depth and steepness of the current fall in economic activity. It also shows graphically the dramatically sub-normal rate of growth in capacity and thus economic potential during the entire George W. Bush administration — compared to every other recent Presidency, and the distinctly superior performance of both capacity and sustained high rates of utilization during the Clinton administration.

The unprecedented steepness of the fall in activity in the last few months is especially troubling because it started from a low base–and because it’s not over yet.

See also Nate Silver’s use of census statistics to show the Clinton administration’s superior effect on the incomes of the poor and middle class as well as the rich. (Note that comparing the two charts shows that Silver’s Reagan/Bush statistics are helped by the fact that the Reagan period started at a relatively low point in the business cycle, and the George W. Bush statistics will look much worse when the 2008 numbers are included. )