Making Sense Of The Issues And Ideologies That Shape Politics In The United States

Friday, January 27, 2012

False Narrative #1: The Bad Economy Is Obama's Fault


OK, this one should be obvious. Anyone with a memory or access to Google can easily understand that the financial system tanked months before Obama was even elected. By the time he took office, we were losing about half a million jobs a month. If anything, Obama's quick and decisive action to pass a stimulus bill and shore up the auto industry prevented an even worse disaster.

Nonetheless, Obama's opponents will incessantly push the "you lost your job because of Obama" narrative. Those of us who prefer to live in reality need to counter this false narrative at each and every turn.

But let's not crown Obama the "King of Economic Recovery" just yet. Because once unemployment stabilized at about 10%, Obama changed his style dramatically. Perhaps he was bruised and beaten from the health care debate, but his leadership on the economy since those first four months has been weak. Lately, his tone had changed as a result of the Occupy movement, but he has spent most of his first term mismanaging a disappointing Congress that at one time boasted historic Democratic majorities.

Bowing to the Tea Party drumbeat of "no tax raises for any reason" and "the debt is the biggest problem we face," Obama seemingly abandoned his fight for the middle and working class. On showdown after showdown, he caved to Republican obstructionism, most egregiously when he struck a bargain to extend tax cuts for the wealthy.

It's not that Obama doesn't care about the poor and the middle class. It's that he adopted a compromise-oriented strategy that was doomed to fail in this turbulent political climate. I found myself pining for candidate Obama's resolve and tough-mindedness (even for a Bush-style "I'm the decider" arrogance!) Instead, we got Professor Obama, trying to bring together two sides that were never going to agree. And the Republicans ate his lunch.

Conclusion: Make sure the Republicans don't get away with blaming Obama for the economy. But also make sure to hold the president's feet to the fire and demand more effective leadership.

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