The Clinton line, an elaboration of Obama excuse No. 37 for the dismal economy (after the Arab Spring, ATMs, the euro crisis and tomato blight in Mrs. Obama's White House garden), goes like this: The economy was so damaged by George W. Bush-era policies that "no president" could have been expected to do better than the record-high poverty, staggering unemployment, shrinking workforce participation, anemic growth and gargantuan debt over which Barack Obama has presided.
We're asked to believe that the Obama administration knew all along that things would take longer than four years to improve. "I never said this journey would be easy," the president claimed in Charlotte. On the contrary, the president stated explicitly on Feb. 1, 2009, that if he failed to get the economy turned around in three years, he would be looking at a "one-term proposition."
If the Obama administration knew from the start that the so-called "hole" left by the previous administration was too deep to climb out of in one term, why did they repeatedly claim that the recovery was at hand? "Recovery Summer," the White House website promised, would begin in June 2010.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner authored a New York Times op-ed in August 2010 proclaiming "Welcome to the Recovery." Geithner wrote, "(A) review of recent data on the American economy shows that we are on a path back to growth." Though acknowledging continuing challenges, Geithner assured readers that "the actions we took ... to stimulate the economy helped arrest the freefall, preventing an even deeper collapse and putting the economy on the road to recovery."
Not true. The recovery actually began in June 2009, long before the overwhelming majority of stimulus funds had been spent. Few of those dollars went to construction and other so-called jobs programs anyway, as the president acknowledged later when he said he had learned that "shovel-ready projects" were not so. If Bush was responsible for the "hole," but the Obama administration could take credit for the modest growth in 2010, how can Bush now be held responsible for the slump since 2010?
Geithner was on even shakier ground when, during a TV interview, he explained how the Bush administration had caused the crisis. "You saw the government of the United States living way beyond its means, borrowing with -- from future generations to finance a set of programs and tax cuts, without paying for them." Bush deserves blame for overspending, but no one lives in a more fragile glass house than Obama on that measure.
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