08 March 2015

Lindsey Graham Insists the Economy is No Better Than it Was at the Height of the Great Recession (The Republican Dilemma)

Since Obama has taken office on January 20, 2009, the NASDAQ has more than tripled and the S&P 500 has more than doubled, unemployment has been cut in half and the deficit has been cut by about three-quarters. Instead of losing 5 million jobs a year - its worst performance since the 1930s - it is gaining 3 million jobs a year - its best performance since 1999.

Lindsey Graham was asked Sunday whether he would admit that the economy was getting better even though he had warned Americans that Obama would destroy the economy.

"I think that we do have stagnant middle-class wage growth, and I think the labor participation rate is at an all-time low," Graham said. "So if your argument is that we’re on the road to recovery, we had a sound economy under President Obama, no I don’t agree with that at all."
Still not on the road to recovery. This in a nutshell is the dilemma Republican candidates face in their run for the presidency. Here are their options.

  1. Deny that the economy was great under Clinton and Obama but terrible under Bush. With this strategy they have to sell American voters on the narrative that George W. Bush had just gotten the economy into good shape, just managed to recover from Clinton's reckless mismanagement, when Obama came along and wrecked it again. Because Democratic presidents actually make things worse - or at best, don't really improve things - Americans should once again put their faith in a Republican president, perhaps even another Bush. If this sounds like a bad strategy, remember that more Louisiana Republicans blame the government's poor response in the wake of Katrina on Obama than on Bush. Katrina happened 3 years before Obama took office, whereas the Great Recession, which started 6 months before Obama won the election, hit hardest during Obama's first year.
  2. Admit that the economy was great under Clinton and Obama but terrible under Bush. With this strategy they have to convince American voters that while the economy will perform great in spite of awful policies (that is to say, Clinton and Obama were incredibly lucky) and will perform disastrously in spite of great policies (which is to say that Bush just had bad luck), American voters should care deeply about who is president because otherwise .... well, otherwise things could become, you know, either bad or good ... it's hard to tell. It might not even make a difference. But it might make a difference. It might even make a different difference than we previously thought it would. You know.

So while Lindsey Graham sounds like either a liar or an idiot for denying that the economy has actually done well during Obama's presidency, he can never admit it because then he has to admit one of two things that would lose him voters: either Democratic president's policies are good for the economy or president's policies don't matter. To acknowledge reality would force him to change his position.

Of course Graham and his fellow GOP candidates are not going after thoughtful voters - just 51% of voters. This strategy of denial could work for them.

Numbers since Obama took office.

The NASDAQ is up 242%, and the broader measure of the S&P 500 is up 144%.

Unemployment is 5.5%, nearly half the 10% it peaked at shortly after Obama took office.

The deficit as % of GDP has been reduced 72%, more than half, from 9.8% of GDP to 2.8% of GDP.

The year Obama took office the economy lost 5.1 million jobs and last year it created 3.1 million jobs, a swing of 8.2 million.

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