Promises, Promises: Why Hope Is Not a Method

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.

Source: Council of Economic Advisors, economy.com, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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.

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About Sean Patrick Hazlett

Conservative clean energy crusader, national security hawk, financial analyst, engineer, and former military officer.
This entry was posted in Finance and Economics, Leadership, Policy, Politics, Predictions and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Promises, Promises: Why Hope Is Not a Method

  1. Scott Erb says:

    I don’t think Bush or Obama should be ‘held accountable’ for things outside their control. The economy is outside the President’s control. I do think they should be criticized for misjudging the scope of the recession — they thought this was similar to 1979 but its really a far deeper economic hole, correcting 30 years of bipartisan imbalances. Moreover, there’s a shift of global economic power away from the US that I think decision makers in both parties are only starting to get. If the economy starts improving next year and people are more hopeful, there’s a very good chance Obama has a relatively easy victory. People tend to have short memories. If the economic recovery stays sluggish, which is very possible, I think we’ll have President Romney. No matter who wins, I think 2013 will not be a very good year for the economy. There are short term factors that might boost things in 2012, but long term debt and financial woes cause me to think we’re not out of the woods yet.

    All that said, I think President Obama would have been severely criticized if he said “this is a major economic downturn and we won’t be out of it for years” because that would have panicked people and perhaps made things worse.

    • “The economy is outside the President’s control. I do think they should be criticized for misjudging the scope of the recession — they thought this was similar to 1979 but its really a far deeper economic hole, correcting 30 years of bipartisan imbalances”

      I think the President has some influence over the economy, but it is limited and it is impossible to determine just how much influence they have.

      “If the economy starts improving next year and people are more hopeful, there’s a very good chance Obama has a relatively easy victory.”

      I totally agree.

      “All that said, I think President Obama would have been severely criticized if he said “this is a major economic downturn and we won’t be out of it for years” because that would have panicked people and perhaps made things worse.”

      That’s a very fair point, Scott.

  2. Some accountability, yes, especially for not being bolder. But, what you continue to fail to acknowledge is that despite “holding” a majority in Congress, the Democrats have been unable to pass most anything (except for healthcare) because of Republican obstructionism aka the filibuster. Unfortunately, neither Obama nor Harry Reid have had the gonads to push for bolder economic policy action via the use of reconciliation just as Bush did by ramming through his irresponsible tax cuts as he led the country into a costly war. Additionally, I think you misunderstand the depth and scope of the financial mess Obama inherited, which compares to the Great Depression and not merely a cyclical recession: 700,000 jobs/month being lost; banking almost-Armageddon; housing market collapse; 2 expensive, unpaid-for wars; unpaid-for prescription-drug plan; uncontrolled medical care costs; and a totally, totally dysfunctional Congress. And, guess what? Despite these incredible obstacles things have begun to turn around quite a bit in the past year. If the Republicans stop sabotaging the recovery in order to get rid of Obama maybe we’ll see a lot of progress by next November.

    • “Some accountability, yes, especially for not being bolder. But, what you continue to fail to acknowledge is that despite “holding” a majority in Congress, the Democrats have been unable to pass most anything (except for healthcare) because of Republican obstructionism aka the filibuster.”

      Yet they succeeded in passing a widely unpopular trillion dollar healthcare bill heavily opposed by both conservative Republicans and Democrats, and a nearly trillion dollar stimulus. I think you fail to acknowledge how much legislation the Democrats were able to ram through Congress. Your argument simply doesn’t fit with reality.

      President Obama had THREE YEARS to show even a modest improvement in the unemployment rate. When he started, it was at 7.8%. Now it is at 8.6%. Did he inherit a terrible economy? Absolutely. Did he take action that helped turn it around? The stimulus certainly helped, but instead of focusing on the economy, the administration passed the trillion turd of Obamacare, and the Dodd-Frank bill to protect imbeciles from making their own financial decisions. When oil prices are >$100 per barrel, the administration opposes efforts to increase oil supplies. Given that for every 10% oil prices increase, global GDP declines by one-quarter of a percentage point, it seems like the administration is shooting itself in the foot, don’t you think?

      Enough is enough. Stop blaming the last guy after THREE YEARS. It’s simply irrational and has no basis in logic and/or facts.

  3. Alan Scott says:

    The rationalizations of Obama supporters are truly amazing. The stimulus did not work, so it wasn’t bold enough. Obama’s policies failed to meet the benchmarks that his people set, unemployment staying under 8%, so the economic mess that George Bush left to them was far worse than anyone could have known. They say that it will take 20 years to undo the damage Bush did. What they mean is that if they control the White House for the next 20 years, unemployment will still be high and it will still be Bush’s fault . In the present, the economy is bad because of Republicans . The 2 years where Democrats had the White House plus large majorities in both Houses of Congress never happened .

    The Solyndra scandal that wasted $500 million is okay because the Iraq War of Bush spent so much more. Fast and Furious is no big deal because nobody in Obama’s government authorized it or knew anything about it . Now Obama is cutting the military to pay for his $800 billion porkulus that failed, but no big deal because nothing will go wrong in the world for the next decade . That is what the Peace Prize was for .

    I have to admit that Obama has been successful in transforming America into Greece. It’s what America voted for in 2008 . I am so eager to cheer the amazing successes Obama will achieve in his second term. I foresee a $ 20 trillion public debt, 85 will be the new age for SS, and the underground economy will boom like in Greece as people evade the new Obama taxes .

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