It’s all Bush’s fault!

Even 3 years into Obama’s presidency, commentators and commenters are constantly blaming it all on Bush. As we sit here in mid-2011, they make it sound like it has been obvious since Day 1 that Bush left the economy in terrible, terrible shape.

It's all Bush's fault!Seems to me that this is revisionist and largely a response to the reality that Obama’s policies have not worked out very well. As they continue to fail, the left has to blame someone and, surely, it is not going to be Obama. Since they all already hate Bush, he’s an easy target.

I’d raise two points about why this is revisionist:

First, if Democrats knew the economy was so bad when they took office, why did they move so quickly (Stimulus was passed within 3 weeks of Obama’s taking office) from the Stimulus to ObamaCare, Cap and Trade, Dodd-Frank, and other programs.  Surely, none of these could be seen are primarily focused on rescuing the economy or creating jobs. If it was obvious the economy sucked, there is no reason they should have done anything but focused like a laser on additional economic and jobs initiatives.

Two explanations for why they did these things.

  1. They knew the economy was in the crapper, but didn’t care because their legislative agenda was more important than fixing the economy.
  2. They actually thought they’d done enough with the Stimulus and could, in clear conscience, move along to other priorities.

My sense is it is something of a melding of the two: They both thought (or at least hoped) they’d done enough and they knew they had to get on move on to implement their policy ambitions before the clock ran out on their terms.

Second reason why it is revisionist is the degree to which this is even Bush’s fault to begin with. Clearly, he was the President then and the economy seriously sucked, but he was not exactly the architect of all that was happening around him (any more than Obama is the architect of all that happens on his watch now). And it is not like the majority of folks on the Democratic side were screaming from the rafters to rein things in as the boom occurred or even as we were crashing.

You can see this when by going back and reading the comments from any number of leading politicians, economists, etc. in the months (even years) before things fell apart and as it was happening and see that nobody really saw it coming – not Bush, not Greenspan/Bernanke, not the Democratically-controlled Congress, etc. Most everyone at every level was bought into the idea that this was real and would continue. This is how most all recessions go – everyone thinks things are reasonably okay, until they don’t.

Along these lines, I was reading a really excellent economics paper just now that quotes Robert Rubin from March, 2008 saying “few, if any people anticipated the sort of meltdown that we are seeing in the credit markets”.

And if Bush did have so much control over the economy, then shouldn’t Obama have even more right now? In his final 2 years, Bush had a wholly Democratic Congress – couldn’t they have taken steps to reign things in?

For Obama’s first 2 years, Democrats controlled all three branches of government. If they knew then what they claim they knew about the magnitude of the problems, why the heck didn’t they focus 100% on the economy and jobs?

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