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March 01, 2010


Brendan, I know this is the simplest poli-sci explanation for political outcomes. But when you say "the economy," what exactly do you mean? By my layman's review of the data, "change in unemployment" explains approval in Reagan's first term very well. Yet if you review the unemployment rates for Clinton's first term, they don't explain it well at all. Is there a better metric?

There are a lot of similar measures out there, but I prefer the "bread and peace" model of Douglas Hibbs, which uses weighted growth in per capita real disposable personal income: http://www.brendan-nyhan.com/blog/2008/02/projecting-the.html See his article on it for more: http://douglas-hibbs.com/Election2008/2008Election-MainPage.htm

Brendan, regardless of whether or not Obama's health care proposals pass or fail, won't he (or the Democrats I should say) take a substantial beating in November anyway?

Yes. The statement above is about how soon the blame Obama narrative will take off.


If Obama became unpopular because of the economy, he deserved to. His economic approach is not based on reality, according to Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson, who gives some convincing arguments:

President Obama and Democrats have spent the last year arguing that, despite the government's massive deficits and overspending, they can responsibly propose even more spending. Future deficits are to be ignored (present deficits, to be sure, partially reflect the economic slump). The proposal is "responsible" because it's "paid for" through new taxes and spending cuts. Even if these financing sources were completely believable (they aren't), the logic is that the government can undertake new spending before dealing with the consequences of old spending....

What [President Obama] didn't say is that this new pay-go contains huge exceptions....Over the next decade, these exceptions could be worth about $2.5 trillion...

Or take the 18-member presidential bipartisan budget commission.... The obstacles to agreement are considerable. But if they're overcome -- and if Congress accepts the package -- you might reasonably conclude that, finally, we'd be suppressing chronic deficits. Not so.

The commission's official task is more modest: It's to eliminate the deficit in 2015, disregarding interest payments. This makes a big difference. By the administration's projections, the budget deficit in 2015 will total $752 billion. Of that, interest payments represent $571 billion. Even if the commission succeeds, the deficit would exceed half a trillion dollars. It would almost certainly grow in future years.

Brendan hopes for economic improvement that would lead to a rise in Obama's popularity. I fear that economic worsening is more likely. Huge, perpetual deficits could cause inflation or could lead to a rise in interest rates, which would prevent a recovery. In 2012, we may be living with stagflation a la Jimmy Carter.

It's not Obama's fault. He inherited these problems from George W. Bush. He's a victim. Nobody dast blame this man.

The Washington Post profile defending Emanuel comes on the heels of a column by Dana Milbank to the same effect. This media campaign is generally regarded as emanating from Emanuel himself, pushback against the meme that Obama has not been well-served by his staff.

Some say Obama's to blame for the failures of the last year, some say the staff is to blame. But why must we choose? The stench of failure clings to all of them.

David, I think your analysis is accurate. Obama's policies have deepened and lengthened the recession he inherited.

One of the most durable consequences of Obama's incompetent economic interventions is and will be higher unemployment in the private sector.

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