Consider the two most successful presidents of recent decades. Ronald Reagan is often credited with sparking an economic renaissance by defeating inflation and deregulating the economy. But it was Jimmy Carter’s appointment of Paul Volcker as chairman of the Federal Reserve that spelled the death knell for inflation (not to mention Carter’s reelection bid), and the deregulation of airlines, trucking and railroads all began under Carter’s watch.

Similarly, the economic boom during Bill Clinton’s presidency was kick-started by an extended decline in long-term interest rates, which began with the budget deal George H.W. Bush signed in 1990 at great personal cost. And if you want to go really big-picture, the technology bubble that gilded Clinton’s second term can be traced to investments in computer-network technology that began under President Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s…

Paradoxically, the same forces that made for such a weak recovery during Obama’s first term suggest that the next four years will be better, regardless of who holds the White House. Right now, businesses, households and governments are all trying to wrestle down their debts. That “deleveraging” saps spending and blunts the power of low interest rates. But eventually it ends, on average six to seven years after the debt (as a percentage of GDP) peaks, according to the McKinsey Global Institute and a study by economists Carmen and Vince Reinhart.