Many Democrats continue to blame President Bush for the painfully slow economic recovery. This scapegoating persists despite the facts that Democrats controlled both houses of Congress from 2006 to 2010, and that the country is three years into the Obama administration. However, at some point the political party controlling the White House must accept its share of the blame, especially after it held both the executive and legislative branches for two of the last three years.
Many liberals rightly claim that without the economic stimulus, unemployment would likely have been much higher today. That said, most of them have conveniently forgotten the rosy employment picture President Obama’s incoming Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, Christina Romer, promised the American people if Congress passed the stimulus.
The chart below, which expands on a chart at economics21.org, shows Romer’s January 9th, 2009 unemployment rate estimates for two scenarios: 1) Congress enacted the recovery plan; and 2) Congress failed to enact the recovery plan. The actual unemployment rate turned out to be far worse than the administration’s predictions even if Congress failed to enact the stimulus bill. In other words, the actual unemployment rate was worse than the administration’s worst case “do-nothing,” scenario.
While presidents can only influence the economy so much, Democrats ought still hold President Obama accountable for his three long years in office in the same way they held President Bush accountable for every economic travail that happened on that president’s watch.
The degree to which President Obama is responsible for current economic underperformance is irrelevant to voters; results matter — especially when Americans measure them against the administration’s promises. The chart above clearly illustrates that by this administration’s own standards, the economy has far underperformed even its worst projections.
It turns out that hope really is not a method. It is results that count, and the results are not good by any objective standard.