Friday, October 2, 2009

This Isn't About Blame

I can only speak for myself, of course. I do not claim to speak for anyone else. I express my opinions. If others share my opinions, that's fine. If they don't, that is their right.

And I feel, as I read Mike Madden's article on, that I have seen this song–and–dance act before.

The bad economy is George W. Bush's fault, he writes, not Obama's.

That is a point I have never disputed. I — like millions of others — was terminated when Bush was still in office.

The fact that Republicans point the finger at Obama is nothing new. Throughout American history, every party that has been out of power has blamed the party in power for hard times. That's the way the game is played.

And when I say "game," I don't mean to suggest that it is a game. It sure isn't a game to the millions of Americans who are suffering — the ones who have lost their jobs and/or their homes. But it is a familiar tactic. The out–of–power party always wants to be the in–power party, and the way to make that happen is to persuade voters that the party that is in power is incompetent.

There certainly may be some voters who believe Obama is responsible for things that happened before he was elected. If there are, they haven't been paying attention.

But my point is this: This isn't about assigning blame. Well, blame for the recession, that is.

When Madden engages in the "it's Bush's fault" bit, he essentially enables Obama and the Democrats to abdicate responsibility. But their political fortunes depend on whether the voters see improvement. As I have said over and over, the voters got that this happened on Bush's watch. Obama was elected to do something about it.

And from practically the first day of his presidency — in fact, before he took office — I was saying that Obama needed to make job creation the focus of his presidency. Not health care reform. Not global warming. Not race relations. Not appeasing Republicans. Not campaigning for Chicago to host the 2016 Olympics.

But he hasn't.

Unemployment wasn't a pleasant subject back in January, when Obama was sworn in. But it's become progressively worse. Today, with the announcement that joblessness continues its relentless climb toward 10%, it has reached a 26–year high.

Most voters don't really understand complex economic principles and theories, but they do understand the unemployment rate. If it goes up, the economy is bad. If it goes down, the economy is good.

That may be a simplistic way of looking at it, but you have to remember that most voters, even those who went to college, are not economists. When deciding how to vote, they look for facts they can comprehend.

In spite of his protests, Madden seems to be aware of this.

"[T]here could be another side to the blame game come November 2010," Madden writes, "if the economy starts to recover and voters think the stimulus had an effect. A Democrat painted a picture of next fall: TARP funds being repaid, new jobs being created, the White House grabbing credit for all of it."

He also seems to understand the flip side. "Until then, though, don't expect Republicans to give up on revisionist history. After all, it's working so far."

So let's knock off the "it's Bush's fault" stuff. That's passing the buck, plain and simple.

Tell us what Obama is doing to encourage job creation. Show us that putting Americans back to work is his priority.

And, if you can't, then don't be surprised at the consequences.

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