With the GOP primary underway, the candidates are all attacking Obama for the condition that the United States is in. Romney in particular is exceptionally good at answering questions in a way that is negative towards only the president and blames him.
There is no question that the United States has some tremendous problems. These problems are getting worse and there seems to be no one who can lead the way to potential solutions. But these kinds of hyperbolic attacks against the current president are often ill-informed, flatly wrong and remind me of the undue criticism that Bush often received in his second term to almost comedic effect.
Indirect connections between actions can be made to the end of time. It is hard enough to focus on concrete cause and effect when dealing with infinitely complicated processes such as the economy and the social behavior. The only way to responsibly and objectively make evaluations of management is direction action and exceptionally strong cases for a result.
Did Obama cause the financial collapse of 2008, before he was even in office? Of course not. Did he establish the horrific tax code? No. Did he bring us into Iraq and Afghanistan? You can see where I’m going with this. Did he establish our monstrous entitlement programs? Did he bailout the financial industry, picking winners and losers?
Yet, the economy is his fault. The economy was not Clinton’s doing in the 1990s. It is not Obamas fault in the 2000s. Yet, voters will always tend to evaluate job performance on economic performance making for a lot of confusion and fairly irresponsible rhetoric.
Certainly Obama is not blameless, but let’s go beyond the rhetoric. In some abstract way, he can be blamed for everything because he promised to fix everything. This is a legitimate criticism, because one lie begets another. Obama was lying when he made even the abstract promises that he put forward during his campaign. I would hope that only the uninformed really believed he would somehow “change the game in Washington” as every candidate promises to do. But that never seems to be the case.
While you can always criticize him for his soaring rhetoric not matching his action, it provides no insightful information. I’m interested in the concrete steps Obama has had a large hand in, that an objective observer can be critical of. To be clear, I’m not just talking about political failures. Frankly, I subscribe to the notion that our governmental and political system is always going to be somewhat inefficient and ineffective. It should be no surprise that they continue to be, or have become worse as government has become bigger.
How about Obama’s failed economic policies that we hear so much about? Well the stimulus is certainly one of them. Henry Blodget of Business Insider makes the complicated simple in one chart. He calls it “the chart that will get Obama fired.” Simply, Obama economic advisors were wrong and their plan did not achieve what it was supposed to at all. Total disaster. Other major forays into economic manage included the Obama-GOP tax deal and Dodd-Frank. You can criticize the hell out of each, but neither really can honestly take the blame of our current situation.
The one thing that everyone knows but hardly ever mentions, because it makes the worst possible headlines, is that the economy is often largely uncontrollable. Recessions and depressions come despite regulations and stimulus packages. The best decision making in the world probably could not have avoided the current recession and job loss that we have seen. Maybe a better stimulus package and tax reform could have improved things by a degree here or there, but we would still be far cry from the fondly remembered age of surpluses and low unemployment.
Who really knows? Obama’s team of economic wizards got it wrong. Greenspan admitted he got it wrong too. Who believes Rick Perry, with a “D” in economics, has it figured it out? Economics is the “dismal science” and none of our politicians have ever been able to change that.
It is arguable that Obama has been politically unable to fix our problems and that many can be given a great deal of healthy criticism. But, to put the blame on Obama’s shoulders for every problem we face (as liberals did with Bush last time around to) perpetuates un-nuanced and unintelligent debate about things that the politicians generally dont know much about and have little control over.
I suspect this discussion has been perpetrated by the same people who came up with the idea that killing Osama Bin Laden secured Obama’s second term. We quickly forgot about that once polls showed generic GOP candidates beating Obama.
It’s the “we can say anything and you wont remember” media.