What if No One Gets Credit for the Recovery?

September 13th, 2011 at 12:24 pm | 14 Comments |

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Seth Masket writes:

The upcoming presidential election is the most important election in a generation. . . . we are in the middle of (and hopefully on the tail end of) a truly catastrophic recession. The economy will recover, although that may not happen for several years. It seems fair to say that the economy will not be roaring again any time soon, meaning that Obama will at best win by a squeaker. If it dips back into recession, he’s toast. Most likely, it will end up just being a really competitive and interesting race on par with 2004.

The party occupying the White House when the economy does finally start booming will get the credit among the public for saving the country. It doesn’t matter so much who was in power when the recession hit or whose policies helped or hurt the recovery. To a large extent, it’s simply a matter of being in the Oval Office at the right time.

Masket goes on to quote Larry Bartels on the randomness of who happens to be the leader of a country when economic conditions improve.

I’m not saying Masket is wrong, but … isn’t this what many Democrats were saying in 2007-2008? The economy was in decline and the Democrats were on their way to unified control of the national government (the House, the Senate, the White House—all they were missing was the Supreme Court), so it looked like an automatic win. Whatever Obama and the Democrats did, they’d get credit for the anticipated recovery. Just like Roosevelt in 1936, or Reagan in 1984.

But it didn’t happen this way. It turned out that Obama came to power in the equivalent of 1930, not 1933, and the economy had a long way to go down.

Again, Masket might be right that the economy will bounce back (in some sense) by 2016 or whenever. I just think we have to be careful about assumptions than anyone can just sit back and take the credit for the recovery—that’s the kind of thinking that (may) have kept us in this mess!

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14 Comments so far ↓

  • Oldskool

    Bush41 would agree. The problem for Rs are the teabaggers in and out of Congress making asses of themselves and their party. And their likely candidate, Romney, has less gravitas than Bush41 did.

    In other words, don’t get yer hopes up.

  • ottovbvs

    There is of course a lot of truth in this. Timing is all in politics. On the other hand a majority of Americans well remember who got us into this mess and over the next few months they’re going to see another Republican obstruction of Obama’s efforts to improve the employment picture on the grounds they don’t want to see taxes loopholes like carried interest closed for the wealthy. There’s also the possiblility the economy steadily improves under it’s own steam. The auto market this year looks like being around 13 million units, who says it’s not going to 14.5 million next year? Interesting you put up a pic of FDR. In 1936 the economy had improved considerably from the situation in 1932 when unemployment was in the region of 25% but it was still in the teens and not by the remotest stretch of the imagination was the depression over. FDR won by one of the greatest landslides in US history. In fact his opponent Landon’s speeches bear an uncanny resemblance to those of people like Boehner, Perry, Bachmann and Romney.

  • D Furlano

    With the current actions in Washington I think a recovery by 2016 is overly optimistic. I would say more like Japan 10-20 years if not more.

  • Watusie

    “isn’t this what many Democrats were saying in 2007-2008? The economy was in decline and the Democrats were on their way to unified control of the national government (the House, the Senate, the White House—all they were missing was the Supreme Court), so it looked like an automatic win. Whatever Obama and the Democrats did, they’d get credit for the anticipated recovery. ”

    In a word, no. That is not what many – or any, as far as I know – Democrats were saying. What they were saying is my god what a shitstorm the new president is going to inherit, good luck to him with the poisoned chalice he inherits.

  • Saladdin

    I remember the headline in the Onion on the day after the innaguration: “Country finally f**ked up enough to elect black man president.” The truth in irony is amazing to me.

  • Graychin

    If FDR still can’t get credit for recovery from the Great Depression from some “conservative” observers, there’s no way that they will give Obama credit for recovery from the Great Recession of 2008. They hate Obama even more than they hated FDR.

    I suppose that they will want to credit any recovery this time to “conservative” politicians who insisted on austerity and spending cuts during a recession.

    What? You say that WWII ended the Depression, not government deficit spending? Isn’t that exactly what WWII was – the greatest binge of spending and debt in history?

  • ottovbvs

    “They hate Obama even more than they hated FDR.”

    Highly debatable. FDR was HATED. There’s a wonderful anecdote about him attending a wedding of one of his relations amongst the Hudson River gentry. Open Presidential Packard roars up to front of house. FDR is lifted onto porch of mansion and stays for an hour or two, meets bride etc. FDR lifted back into open Packard and as he drives away he waves in typical FDR fashion. All the guests assembled on the lawns in front of house turn and boo him!!!

  • gover

    I saw an article a couple days ago, sorry, no link, or even recollection of the source. Made a very good case that there was one single variable that caused one country to recover from the Great Depression faster than another. The earlier you got off the gold standard, the faster you recovered.

    If I dig out the article, can someone arrange a chance for me to explain it to Ron Paul? It’d be fun to watch his head explode. I promise I’ll provide him medical care. Oh wait, he’s a congressman, he has good insurance.

  • Steve D

    Someone once said “Voting the economy makes as much sense as voting the weather.”

  • Houndentenor

    I wonder what would happen if our elected officials were more concerned with there being a recovery than with who would get credit for a recovery.

    • Polifan

      +1

      What if they actually would compromise and put country first?
      That is my hope. There is potential for your “credit” Mr. Gelman
      that is well deserved.

  • Churl

    “What if No One Gets Credit for the Recovery?”

    Let’s worry about that if and when there is a recovery.