Obviously, Bill Clinton -- and the Republican congress that forced him to balance the budget -- deserves some credit for the 1990s boom. But last I checked he didn't invent the personal computer, the Internet or biotechnology. Nor did he end the Cold War. The notion that there would have been no "roaring nineties" if George H.W. Bush had been re-elected is simply preposterous.
As much as it pains me to say it, Ronald Reagan deserves some of the blame for this notion that our individual successes and failures are wholly contingent upon the whim of the guy in the Oval Office. He was the one who popularized "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" to such devastating effect against Jimmy Carter. Since then, Democrats have made their own use of this crude reductionism. It has always struck me as a secular form of medieval thinking. My crops will not prosper unless the high priest wills it so.
At least Reagan argued that the economy would prosper if he were allowed to liberate it from the scheming of self-styled experts. Clinton ran out in front of a parade of free market successes and, like Ferris Bueller, acted as if he was leading the parade.
In his manifest hubris, Obama believed it was just that easy. He, too, could simply will vibrant economy into being through sheer intellectual force. But, unlike Bill Clinton, he wouldn't sully himself by playing "small ball." Obama would be "transformative."
For the ancient Greeks, hubris described the sort of arrogance that offends the gods, and precedes the fall. In the current context, it certainly tests the limits of my sympathy.
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