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Economic Actors, Economic Behaviors, and Presidential Leadership

The Constrained Effects of Rhetoric

C. Damien Arthur

There is considerable disagreement about whether the U.S. president has a direct and measurable influence over the economy. The analysis presented in Economic Actors, Economic Behaviors, and Presidential Leadership: The Constrained Effects of Rhetoric suggests that while presidents have increased their rhetoric regarding the economy, they have not had much success in shaping it. Considering this research, Arthur argues that the president’s decision to address the economy so often must stem from a symbolic placation or institutional necessity that is intended to comfort constituencies or somehow garner electoral advocacy from the party’s base. No other viable explanation exists given the lack of results presidents obtain from discussing the economy and their persistent determination to do so. This discrepancy suggests that presidential rhetoric on the economy is, at best, a tool used to appear concerned to everyone and toe the party-line to their base. Arthur presents an overview of economic rhetoric from the presidential office that will be of interest to scholars of the economy and political communication. « less more »
Lexington Books
Pages: 180Size: 6 1/2 x 9 3/8
978-0-7391-8783-8 • Hardback • July 2014 • $80.00 • (£52.95)
978-0-7391-8784-5 • eBook • July 2014 • $79.99 • (£52.95)
C. Damien Arthur is assistant professor of political science at West Virginia State University.
Chapter 1: Presidential Rhetoric and the Economy
Chapter 2: Ascertaining Presidential Influence with Economic Actors
Chapter 3: Presidential Rhetoric and the Federal Reserve
Chapter 4: Presidential Rhetoric and Public Perceptions
Chapter 5: Congressional Actions as Preeminent Economic Leadership

Chapter 6: Conclusions

Notwithstanding Richard Neustadt's assertion that presidential power is the power to persuade, Arthur demonstrates empirically that presidents are not very effective when they attempt to persuade key economic actors. Relying on content analysis of speeches, Arthur examines presidential rhetoric and its effect on the economy. While presidents have increasingly tried to use persuasion to build support for their policies, the author finds that rhetoric has little impact on the Federal Reserve's actions, Congress, or the public's perceptions of the economy. Indeed, the author suggests that congressional committees may have more influence over the Fed than the president. Arthur also finds, paradoxically, that presidents are often less likely to talk about the economy when times are bad (Barack Obama being a notable exception). Arthur concludes that 'presidential rhetoric on the economy is, at best, a tool presidents use to appear concerned about the economy to everyone and toeing the party-line to their base.' This work provides empirical evidence to support what many have long suspected: that presidential talks about the economy are just talk. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduate, graduate, and research collections.

Using the president’s rhetoric on the national economy as an analytic wedge, this nicely written study adds to our understanding of the role presidential rhetoric plays—and fails to play—in influencing policy making and policy makers. C. Damien Arthur’s book will be of particular interest to students and scholars with an interest in economic policy, presidential rhetoric, and the ways in which they intersect.
Mary E. Stuckey, Georgia State University

C. Damien Arthur’s Economic Actors, Economic Behaviors, and Presidential Leadership takes a skeptical and data-driven look at a major question for scholars of the presidency: does presidential rhetoric matter, and if so, how? The book is sure to be of interest to students of presidential rhetoric.
Thomas W. Benson, Pennsylvania State University