Presidents usually end up as symbols. That’s rather silly, but that is what has generally happened.
Presidents are human beings; they have certain abilities and lack others. They are, like all of us, complex beings, not monochrome symbols. And they are most certainly not super-heroes or demons. They are just other humans doing a very unusual job. Hopefully they are of a good character and high ability, but this is not always true either.
So, it is immediately a mistake to think that any President has the power or ability to control the entire US economy. The President is just another executive, trying to run a large organization. And his/her ability to control the US economy is much less likely now than it was in previous times, with that economy strongly tied to the rest of the world’s economies.
The world is covered with markets, and their forces are astronomical. Furthermore, there are credit (and other) cycles that are beyond the President’s control. And then you have the ever-present eruptions of wars and intrigue.
The truth is that there are so many forces interacting that no President knows enough to manipulate them all properly. So, if you’re going to credit or blame your favorite (or favorite to hate) politician, you’re probably just undertaking an exercise in making yourself feel good. He or she had less effect than you think.
The one power that Presidents do have is to choke economic action. In other words, it is much easier for a President to do harm than it is for him to do good.*
So, if you blame the politician for doing damage, you are more likely correct than if you credit him for prosperity. (Note: Ceasing to do damage and creating prosperity can easily be confused.)
Presidents have much less control of the economy than people imply.
*This is a direct result of the general structure and nature of government – that is, they take, but do not create. Their power is to restrict.
[“Myth: President (Whomever) Was Better for the Economy” is an excerpt from Paul Rosenberg’s book, Mindless Slogans – 101 Cheap Substitutes for Actual Thought]