TAKING ‘STOCK’….In February 2004, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao was on CNN defending the Bush administration’s economic policies. When Judy Woodruff noted the president’s poor record on job creation, Chao suggested there’s only one number that matters.

Woodruff: I want to cite the one economic analyst with Credit Suisse First Boston. He said, these are his words, quote, “very disappointing; we’re not getting the jobs to replace the stimulus in the economy which will fade once the first quarter ends.” Another economist said, “It’s the weakest job-creation rate relative to economic growth on record.”

Chao: Well, the stock market is, after all, the final arbiter.

In retrospect, Chao may have wanted to pick a different standard of measurement, because if the stock market is “the final arbiter,” Bush has some explaining to do. The Dow ended 2005 lower than when it started 12 months ago.

In fact, while it was the 0.6% decline for the year that generated headlines, most seem to have overlooked the fact that on the day Bush was sworn into office in January 2001, the Dow Jones stood at 10,732.46. As of now, it’s at 10,717.50.

In other words, after five years of Bush’s presidency, the stock market has a cumulative gain of negative 15 points.

Under Reagan, the Dow went up 148%. Under Clinton, it grew 187%. After five years, Bush isn’t quite breaking even.

Sure, Republican administrations have consistently under-performed Democratic administrations on stock market growth, but who would have guessed that nearly five years after Bush took office, the Dow wouldn’t have grown at all?

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.