Under pressure from a barrage of bad midterm-election polls, President Obama has gone on the campaign trail to blame Pres. George W. Bush for all our economic problems and to bash House Republican leader John Boehner as nothing more than a Bush retread.
In Friday's dreary news conference, Obama acknowledged that economic progress is "painfully slow" and that voters may blame him for the economy. Yet he nonetheless continued to finger Bush "for policies that cut taxes, especially for millionaires and billionaires, cut regulations for corporations and for special interests, and left everyone else pretty much fending for themselves."
"Millionaires and billionaires" has become Obama's favorite phrase as he calls for tax hikes on the wealthy and renews his attacks on Bush. In Cleveland last week, Obama actually blamed the Bush tax cuts for the financial meltdown and severe recession. Now that's a reach. A big reach.
While Bush made plenty of economic mistakes, his 2003 reductions of marginal tax rates led to more than 8 million new jobs in the next four and a half years. Under Bush, the unemployment rate dropped to 4.6 percent.
And almost all economists agree that the 2007-08 financial meltdown was a housing-bubble and credit event. It had nothing at all to do with cutting taxes.
Regarding John Boehner, Obama slammed the GOP leader eight times in Cleveland. He claimed "no new policies from Mr. Boehner," saying the Republican leader's philosophy "led to this mess in the first place: cut more taxes for millionaires and cut more rules for corporations."
Well, none of this is going to work come Nov. 2.
Take a good look at the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll. It is very revealing on these points.
Voters were asked, if Republicans win control of Congress, will they return to the economic policies of George W. Bush, or will they have different ideas to deal with the economy? The response: 58 percent said different ideas, and 35 percent said the policies of George W. Bush. Voters were then asked if Democrats maintain control of Congress, will they continue with the economic policies of Barack Obama, or will they have different ideas on the economy? The response: 62 percent said the policies of Obama, and 32 percent said different ideas.
The poll also found that 56 percent of voters disapprove of Obama's handling of the economy, while 39 percent approve; that 71 percent disapprove of the job Congress is doing; and that 62 percent think it better that different parties control Congress and the White House. Overall, on the generic congressional vote, likely voters favor Republicans over Democrats 49 percent to 40 percent.
Clearly, Obama is barking up the wrong tree with his assaults on Bush and Boehner.
It's the Obama agenda, especially on the economy, that has voters agitated. It's a couple trillion dollars worth of big-government spending stimulus. It's add-ons like cash for clunkers, cash for caulkers and homebuyer tax credits. It's the never-ending mortgage-default assistance. It's two years of unemployment benefits. It's more government-union bailouts for the states. It's GM, Fannie and Freddie. And, of course, it's Obamacare, which remains hugely unpopular.
Folks simply don't think they got much for their money. And now they want to get their money back. They even want strict constitutional limits on the size, scope, spending and taxing of the federal government, which has just made the biggest power grab they've ever seen.
The point is, your average Joe the Plumber in all those flyover states has probably barely even heard of John Boehner. This Boehner attack reminds me of the GOP's futile attempt to demonize Nancy Pelosi in the autumn of 2006. Back then, nobody had much heard of Pelosi. But people voted the Republicans out because of overspending, bridges to nowhere, corruption and the Iraq war.
Today, while the GOP is developing a platform that is expected out at the end of the month, voters seem to know that a nearly united Republican Party opposes Bailout Nation, big spending and borrowing, Obamacare and a new national energy tax.
Republicans are far from perfect. But they have slowly developed a good message: freeze spending, keep tax rates down, hold back the redistributionist government tide, help entrepreneurs, reward success, and create jobs and economic growth through the traditional American route of private-sector business, not government planning.
In the next seven weeks, if Republicans can stay on this message, they will win big.