It's Election Day: Can You Really Blame the President?

How much does the President really matter? (Photo by Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)

In honor of Election Day, our latest Freakonomics Radio installment on Marketplace asks a question that might make a few political heads explode: how much does the President of the United States really matter?

Sure, he’s the “leader of the free world” – but how much unalloyed power does he actually have? Is he more puppet-master, pulling every string, or Wizard of Oz, the symbol of power?

Marketplace Segment

It’s Election Day: Can You Really Blame the President?

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You’ll hear from the Wharton economist (and Brookings Institution scholar) Justin Wolfers; the “baseball economist” J.C. Bradbury; and Bernadette Meyler, a constitutional law professor at Cornell Law School. Wolfers, for one, thinks that at the moment Olympia Snowe is just as powerful as President Obama.


been saying it for decades...
how can one person 'in power?' pulling down a six figure salary affect the fates of seven and eight figure folk?


Random question: who's the announcer? I like her style.

Jack Farrell

Of course the President matters very little. Just look at the last 15 years; The Clinton haters, the Bush haters, and the Obama haters. They're all venting their anger in an inappropriate and not very well informed way. The real culprits are the representatives they put into office.

Shanon White

Yes, but if Al Gore had been president would we have invaded Iraq? Would we have had the Medicare Plus corporate welfare program? I mean these are big deals for our nation and economy. Presidents do make a pretty big difference. We wouldn't have picked 2 ultra-conserviative judges and maybe corporate money wouldn't be considered "free speech" now. They make a huge difference.