I have another early-morning appearance on CNN’s “American Morning” today, scheduled to pop up sometime shortly after 7 a.m. EST. The topics du jour are Mitt Romney’s campaign kickoff and this double-entendre-laced scandal on Capitol Hill that you may have heard about.
UPDATE: Well. CNN’s Ali Velshi did NOT like my observation that barring a sudden drop in the unemployment rate between now and November 2012, the unemployment rate for every month of Obama’s presidency will be higher than it was for every month of Bush’s two terms. He dismissed it as a “talking point” and told me, “you have to come better armed than that.” He noted that Bush didn’t have “the Great Recession.” (I do seem to remember some sort of tech bubble bursting as the decade dawned, and some sort of intense economic disruption from a big event in fall 2001, but perhaps my memory’s hazy.)
Attempting to get a word in edgewise, I tried to point out that this is a central point of the traditional argument of challengers against presidential incumbents: “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” For eight years, Democrats painted the Bush years, with their 4 to 6 percent unemployment, as the bad old days of economic deprivation. (Here’s a letter from Nancy Pelosi and Tom Daschle bewailing high unemployment and the tough job market in December 2003, when the unemployment rate was 5.7 percent.) Sure, Obama and the Democratic Congress inherited a tough economic circumstance — but with large congressional majorities able to pass the stimulus and the health-care bill, most Americans haven’t felt any significant improvement in their lives.
I suppose either you find the comparison of the economic performance under Bush and under Obama relevant, or you don’t. It seems that the pro-Obama argument relies on the notion that the Great Recession just happened, and there just wasn’t much Obama could do about it over a four-year period. (Of course, if there was nothing that could be done to really mitigate it, that more or less undermines the central argument of liberalism that sufficient government spending can create economic growth.)
When the video is up, I’ll post it, and let you decide for yourselves.