Majority Still Hold Bush Responsible For Poor Economy
George W. Bush has been out of office for 2 1/2 years, but he’s still being held responsible for the state of the economy:
Though more Americans see the economy in bad shape than did at the beginning of the summer, their views of whether to reelect President Barack Obama have barely changed — and a majority blame George Bush for the problems, a new poll says.
Eighty-six percent of those surveyed for an Associated Press-GfK poll released Thursday say the economy is in “poor” condition, up from 80 percent in June. And, according to 49 percent of those surveyed, things have gotten worse in the past month.
With the economy struggling, Obama continues to get low marks for his handling of it. Sixty-three percent of Americans say they disapprove of his handling of the economy, including 48 percent who say they “strongly” disapprove. Just 36 percent say they approve of Obama’s handling of the economy, the lowest it’s ever been in this poll.
While Republicans have pushed to cast the sputtering economy as Obama’s fault, Americans place their blame elsewhere. Fifty-one percent say George W. Bush deserves “almost all,” or “a lot but not all” of the blame, while 31 percent said the same of Obama.
44 percent of those polled said that “almost all” or “a lot but not all” of the blame should be put on the shoulders of congressional Republicans, while 36 percent responded that way about congressional Democrats.
I hear my conservative friends complain frequently when the President or some pundit tries to tie President Bush to the economy, and perhaps they have an argument there. After all, Barack Obama is through more than half of his first term at this point, he’s implemented a stimulus package that was supposed to stop and reverse the economic decline that was occurring when he took office, and he’s proposed two budgets. While we’re not technically in a recession, there’s no question that the state of the economy is poor and that large numbers of Americans are worse off than they were four years ago. Why are they holding the former President more responsible for the statement of the economy than the current one?
Part of it, no doubt, is the fact that President Bush left office with incredibly low job approval numbers, thanks largely to the state of the economy. Bush’s economic policies were flawed in many respects, and his response to the 2008 crisis did more to reinforce the positions of Wall Street firms and banks than the American public (a policy the Obama Administration has continued, by the way). Additioanlly, President Obama is benefiting from the fact that the economy had tanked before he took office, because the blame got applied to his predecessor rather than to him. By contrast, the stock market crash that precipitated the Great Depression occurred some seven months after Herbert Hoover took office so nobody really blamed Calvin Coolidge for it. At the same time, though, the President campaigned for office promising to fix things, to bring “Hope” and “Change,” and he sold his stimulus package with the warning that if we didn’t do it, unemployment would skyrocket past 9%. We passed the stimulus, and unemployment skyrocketed past 9% where it remains, and according to new projections from the CBO, unemployment is likely to remain above 8.5% through the end of 2012:
The CBO expects the U.S. economy to grow somewhere between 2.4 and 2.6 percent annually this year and next, followed by just 1.7 percent growth in 2013. And that slow growth will take its toll on employment.
The Labor Department earlier this month said the July unemployment rate was 9.1 percent. The CBO expects that to drop to 8.9 percent in the fourth quarter of this year and to 8.5 percent in the fourth quarter of next year, when voters decide on whether President Obama deserves a second term in office. One third of the Senate and all 435 House members also face voters.
The CBO forecasts the unemployment rate to average around 8.7 percent in 2013 and then fall to an average of 7.9 percent for 2014.
There are some analysts who think the CBO’s numbers are incredibly optimistic, and the prospects for the future are even dimmer than they project. Nonetheless, even taking these numbers at face value it’s clear that the economy will still be weak, and unemployment high, when Barack Obama faces re-election. At that point, one presumes, the public will finally start holding the current occupant of the Oval Office responsible.