As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, September 14, 2009

Wasting An Opportunity

A poll on the economy has an interesting nugget about who the public blames for the nation's perilous state.

One year after Wall Street teetered on the brink of collapse, seven out of 10 Americans lack confidence the federal government has taken safeguards to prevent another financial industry meltdown, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

Even more — 80 percent — rate the condition of the economy as poor and a majority worry about their own ability to make ends meet. The pessimistic outlook sets the stage for President Barack Obama as he attempts to portray the financial sector as increasingly confident and stable and presses Congress to act on new banking regulations [...]

Still, Obama generally avoided public blame for the recession or the condition of the banking sector.

Only one out of five surveyed said Obama bore responsibility for the recession; 54 percent blamed former President George W. Bush and 19 percent blamed former President Bill Clinton.

Financial institutions, however, bore the brunt of the criticism — 79 percent of those surveyed said banks and lenders that made risky loans deserve quite a bit of the blame. Sixty-eight percent held the federal government responsible for not adequately regulating banks and 65 percent blamed borrowers who could not afford to repay loans.

I love the blaming of the Clenis, presumably from the hardest-core teabaggers and conservative ideologues (yes, he ruined the country with all that peace and prosperity). But ultimately, the vast majority of Americans blame Bush. And in this respect, they are absolutely right and we have numbers to prove it.

On every major measurement, the Census Bureau report shows that the country lost ground during Bush's two terms. While Bush was in office, the median household income declined, poverty increased, childhood poverty increased even more, and the number of Americans without health insurance spiked. By contrast, the country's condition improved on each of those measures during Bill Clinton's two terms, often substantially.

The Census' final report card on Bush's record presents an intriguing backdrop to today's economic debate. Bush built his economic strategy around tax cuts, passing large reductions both in 2001 and 2003. Congressional Republicans are insisting that a similar agenda focused on tax cuts offers better prospects of reviving the economy than President Obama's combination of some tax cuts with heavy government spending. But the bleak economic results from Bush's two terms, tarnish, to put it mildly, the idea that tax cuts represent an economic silver bullet.

Yet, this majority consensus that George Bush's economic plan was an unmitigated disaster for the country has flourished despite a virtual code of silence from Democratic leaders since the President entered office. People had to come to this conclusion all by themselves, and a lot of them did. But an effective campaign, armed with the facts, would go a long way to setting the record straight.

This should be something that every American knows. And every Republican should be asked why they voted for all the things that Bush wanted than made that happen. But for for some reason, Bush has been disappeared, as if the directive to "look forward" means that we can't even hold the Republicans responsible for their own political failure. (We already know that can't be held accountable for their illegal behavior.) And the result of that is very likely to be that blame for the failures of the Bush years will be applied to the Democrats. It already is among the teabaggers.

"The Republican recession" has a nice ring to it and should have been the mantra for months now. It certainly should be the mantra of the 2010 mid-term. And all those facts and figures about the Bush years should be part of every Democrat's stump speech. People need to know this stuff, not just for political reasons but because they need to start understanding where these conservative policies lead. If the Democrats don't use the greatest example of conservative failure since Hoover to illustrate that, it's going to happen all over again.

It's probably too late to get the maximum mileage out of this kind of education campaign. That's a damn shame, because we have a President who seeks post-partisanship instead of helping himself by laying out what choices destroyed the economy and what choices can fix it. But that would take a Party with the courage of their own convictions.

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