A recent Gallup poll indicates that two-thirds of Americans still blame Bush for America’s current economic woes. Though about a third of Americans blame Bush and Obama equally, most of us continue to lay the blame for the economic crisis squarely on the shoulders of the man who retired from the presidency more than four years ago. Apparently, it’s still Bush’s fault.
There are a number of issues at work here. For one, economic policies don’t have immediate economic effects. For another, the president doesn’t have that much control over what happens in the economy. In fact, the civil government can’t even do that much to direct the economy. As Austan Goolbee explains,
I think the world vests too much power, certainly in the president, probably in Washington in general for its influence on the economy, because most all of the economy has nothing to do with the government.
That’s right. In spite of all the hullabaloo over this or that president’s economic policies, the economy rises and falls pretty much according to resource availability, production, supply and demand… you know, that kind of stuff.
That doesn’t stop presidents from taking credit for market booms, and it doesn’t stop us from blaming them for recessions. But, for good and for bad, it’s not really their fault.
This continued obsession with blaming Bush is a different beast though. It isn’t even connected to the market. It has very little to do with how the economy is doing at any given moment. It seems that, for whatever reason, people can’t get enough of blaming Bush for, well, pretty much anything. He was apparently singly responsible for Hurricane Katrina, remember?
When you’re being blamed for natural disasters, there’s apparently not a whole lot you can do to rectify your reputation. Even more than four years out of the White House, people still want to say that Bush, who didn’t even have that much influence over the economy while he was still president, is still more responsible for our current economic crisis than Obama is. It’s hard to understand how a people with such a short attention span could even remember that Bush was ever president.
And if Bush can never do right, then Obama can never do wrong. I really don’t know what Obama would have to do in order to displease his constituency. Unconstrained drone killings? Pervasive government spy program? Economy-crippling healthcare plan? Yeah. I’m sure those are Bush’s fault too.