Americans Don’t Blame Obama for Economy (Yet)

By Alan Stewart Carl | Related entries in Barack, Economy

Despite the continued economic woes, Americans aren’t yet ready to blame our new president. At least that’s the conclusion of a new Washington Post/ABC News poll:

Asked who was responsible for the economic meltdown, 80 percent in the poll blamed banks, financial institutions and corporations. Some 70 percent also blamed consumers for taking on too much debt and the former Bush administration for lax regulation. Only 26 percent said the Obama administration was not doing enough to turn the situation around.

Two-thirds of respondents approve of the way Obama is handling the presidency, and 60 percent approve of the way he is handling the economy.

Well, it’s hard to say Obama isn’t “doing enough ,” although there are plenty of arguments that he’s not doing the right things. And, in the end, that’s what will determine whether or not Americans associate the recession with Obama. If the economy rebounds, he’ll get the credit. But if it continues to struggle, those “blame” numbers will rise.

Right now, it’s too soon to claim Obama’s actions have had any significant effect on the economy, one way or the other. Americans are smart enough to know it takes time to turn around a massive ship. The question is, how much longer will the grace period last and will the economy rebound before opinions on Obama shift?


This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 31st, 2009 and is filed under Barack, Economy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

10 Responses to “Americans Don’t Blame Obama for Economy (Yet)”

  1. ExiledIndependent Says:

    These numbers make sense based on the questions that were asked. The economic crisis isn’t Obama’s fault, and no amount of revisionist history will ever be able to draw that conclusion. But, Alan, what you alluded to is much more important. While the President is taking many actions, the debate is whether or not these are the right ones. Some suggested questions for the next poll: Do you think the President’s actions will help the economy? Should Presidents have the power to remove CEOs from companies without consulting the company’s boards or shareholders? Stuff like that.

  2. Mike A Says:

    Yes but asking the same people, who admittedly overspent and racked up enormous debt, about the proper actions to these complex issues such as those suggested by EI will yield what exactly? For the most part we are a nation poorly educated in these subjects. I wouldn’t be surprise a not-insignificant percentage of the population do not know how to reconcile a bank account, or how to calculate loan payments, etc. Those who have the education to provide practical responses will be drown out in torrents of ideological soundbites.

    I am by no means advocating taking away the voice of the citizens…but I am wary of any poll results that are used to rate strategic decisions, particularly those that fall outside of the norm.

    Unfortunately in today’s world perception is truth…

  3. Trescml Says:

    Turning the economy is more turning a battleship than a speedboat, but I think by the fall if things don’t at least seems like they are improving then people’s patience with Obama will be mostly gone.

  4. kranky kritter Says:

    Precisely Alan. It’s been bad enough so far that more folks than usual have been paying close attention, and they understand that Obama inherited current circumstances.

    But as time passes, fewer and fewer folks will care who caused it, and care only about who they think can fix it. And they’ll know as time passes that Obaam’s actions will have substantially contributed to wherever we’ve reached.

    I know that many folks are hopefully thinking we have seen the bottom and that things are going to begin to rebound. I hope that, but I don’t think it’ll happen in a 1 year time frame.My gut says the collapse was too great and too broad for us not to see multiple concussive aftershocks. For example, what is going to happen to commercial real estate as more small retail businesses fail? How will that effect credit and bank solvency?

    I agree with Trescmi that American patience, never a strong suit, will likely begin to turn come fall if there are not signs of a turnaround. But I don’t believe that blame is going to have any sort of a salutary effect on the economy or on the political environment. That’s true whether it stays stuck to Wall st and the mythically deregulatory Republicans, or whether the blame gets extended to clueless spendthrift democrats.

    Like children, we are all hoping that we can go back to whatever we were doing and hope it will work and we can can go back to just getting what we want. But like House says, “people don’t get what they want, they get what they get!”

    As so often happens, we are likely to get something in a different way than we expected. So many of us were eager for change we can believe in.

    Instead, what we seem poised to get is changes we’d prefer not to make, but which are necessary and not optional.

  5. J. Harden Says:

    “Necessary and not optional” — I hope you are not referring to Obama’s economic policies as necessary and not optional, Kranky? No doubt Obama will defend his current policies in the future with an almost Calvanistic strain of predestination (this will fit nicely with some of his more messianic-adoring followers.) “It was Apocalypse Now or Later” will be the mantra, “We chose Later. We simply had no choice if we wanted life continue.” Similar to the logic used by the Bush administration to get us into Iraq.

    I think Mencken is more fitting than House: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

    Good and hard, Kranky. Might as well pucker-up and enjoy. BTW, 1) who’s up for buying a cool Government Motors vehicle, and 2) I thought bankruptcy for GM (good part, bad part, or otherwise) would be such a catastrophe that the earch would actually spin off its axis and hurdle itself in the sun…I guess not.

  6. kranky kritter Says:

    No, JH, I was thinking more along the lines of folks spending within their reduced means, setting aside more for retirement because they now HAVE less set aside and SS will have to be tweaked.

    I am thinking of folks sending kids to state schools because they are the only ones within price reach. I am thinking about students commuting to a local college because that’s how college can be afforded.

    I am talking about buying 2 BR first homes. I am talking about buying 3BR homes even though you have 3 or 4 kids. I am talking about driving your car for 200k miles. I am talking about the 2nd car being a shitbox. I am talking about not buying your 16 yr old kid a car.

    I would characterize Obama’s policies as no better than the types of good-faith guesses that are made by someone who leans towards gov’t solutions.

    I HOPE that the coming generations bring lengthy debate over the wisdom of these policies, just like the FDR depression-spending debate that still rages. Because that will mean America still enjoys the luxury of engaging in academic debates about presidential policies and has not become some sort of scruffy 3rd world debtor nation with a status so reduced that the debate has been rendered moot.

  7. bubbaquimby Says:

    And what’s so bad about that Kranky?

    I am thirty and I did everything you talked about in the second paragraph. I went to a local college and than transferred to a state college. My wife went to a Wash U in St. Louis and than got a masters at Duke. We make about the same amount of money, private isn’t always better. Although I will say she really enjoys what she does and in the long run will have more higher pay job opportunities.

    Neither of us had college paid for us and I am not sure where in the American dream that suddenly become something all kids needed to have. Sure it’s nice but I have seen plenty of Gen X and Y blow their parent’s money because they didn’t care. Having a job in college can be a good thing and a valuable lesson. Too many people my age and younger had too little responsibility it’s not surprising they are unequipped for the real world.

    As for homes the housing crash is actually good for us since we couldn’t afford a home during the boom but we are still starting small because we don’t need a big house. Two bedrooms is fine. Also I intend to drive our two newer vehicles like all the rest, over 200k or just under. I also learned to live with not having a car at 16 (I did buy my mom’s junker at 17 though).

    Now I am not saying all consumerism is bad but I really think it went too far and I don’t think that it’s bad that the American people might actually have to start to scale back to live within their means the way we haven’t for 20 years.

  8. kranky kritter Says:

    Nothing Bubba. Nothing at all. I worked my way through commuter college, and we have 2 sh!tboxes. Not to pat myself on the back, just trying to make a point about lifestyle variance.

    My point is simply that these adjustments are going to be unpleasant for folks unused to them.

    You and I maybe got used to them under optional circumstances, in the sense that we chose a frugal approach to maximize the resources for our priorities. My wife and I try to live a bit below our means, and we go lean and even cheapskate on stuff unimportant to us in order to provide resources for an emergency fund and for stuff we really like and want. Again not to pat my own back. We have seldom been really tested, not to the mac and cheese, no cable, take the bus, count the change level. And I hope we aren’t.

    I agree with you about consumerism. And in the abstract, I agree that folks scaling back to live within their means could be, I guess good for our cultural character. I say it that way for lack of better phrasing, I don’t want to be a moral scold.

    What does concern me about such lifestyle adjustments though, is what the side effects will be on economic growth, jobs, etc. What kind of retail vacancy rate are we looking at? And what kind of unemployment rate among folks who are only capable of retail service work? Empty malls and high unemployment at the bottom end of the labor pool aren’t very food for any of us, ya know?

    But if there are suddenly too many retail spaces and Mcmansions. for a nation now trying to live within its means, it is what it is. And it’ll be what it has to be.

  9. J. Harden Says:

    Kranky & Bubbaquimpy: That exchange was/is absolutely refreshing. I seem to remember being reprimanded as either dilusional or uncaring when I suggested that viable healthcare options exists outside a third-party payer system – http://www.ustreas.gov/offices/public-affairs/hsa/. I don’t see any cultural/social plea on the part of Obama for any meaningful “lifestyle adjustments” – in fact his policies thus far reflect a generational repulsion to delayed gratification and sacrifice. Kranky, in reference to Obama, “someone who leans towards government solutions” might take the Understatement of the Year award. His economic philosophy seems to be relatively unfocused monetary saturation. Regardless, I think it is totally inconsistent to herald a personal philosophy of frugility, sacrifice and self-reliance and at the same time support public policy that asks for none of those values (more than mere rhetoric). Obama is encouraging and nuturing government dependence — his healthcare plan is not a play on the margins, it is a play for the middleclass. Me, my demographic. There is joke that sums up my generation pretty well.

    A man approaches a very attractive woman and asking her if she would have sex for a million dollars. She replies, “certainly”. He then asks if she would have sex with him for $100? She replies,”$100, what do you think I am?”. He says,”we’ve already established what you are, now we’re just negotiating a price”.

    Obama is merely negotiating the price with the middleclass.

  10. kranky kritter Says:

    I think it is totally inconsistent to herald a personal philosophy of frugility, sacrifice and self-reliance and at the same time support public policy that asks for none of those values (more than mere rhetoric).

    JH, trying to explain what I feel makes my own perspective on this coherent across a giant number of variables is likely well beyond the scope of a blog. The short answer is that I gave up years ago expecting other folks to behave according to my standards. In place of this, I began a long process of trying to judge what my various experiences show me we CAN expect from people. At its most basic, I think maybe I try to occupy myself with the question “what is human nature, on average, and in particular? And how fungible is it?”

    As this relates back to your challenge, my answer to the human nature question is that the majority of folks will not make such frugal choices when they perceive them to be optional. But when faced with push coming to shove, they do tend to find the ability to do the math. In other words, I have learned that barn doors are usually closed after the horse has left. It’s the repetitions of such experiences that best teach folks the merits of closing them. I have become a pretty firm beliver that while you can try to teach folks stuff, most of the important stuff is learned only when it’s felt so that it’s remebered and the light is switched on for good. These times are teachable moment, Our nation is experiencing now what will be a formative experience for the next generation, both for better and for worse.

    Kranky, in reference to Obama, “someone who leans towards government solutions” might take the Understatement of the Year award. His economic philosophy seems to be relatively unfocused monetary saturation.

    Thanks a bunch JH. It’s nice to see my rhetorical efforts rewarded. What feels like an understatement to you was a conscious effort on my part not to send a conversation astray. That’s why I try to speak in terms of simply accurate descriptions of tendencies. IMO, understatement is almost always preferable of your goal is a conversation instead of an argument. But I fail my own rules far too often. I’m a kranky guy.

    Personally, I am still giving Obama the benefit of the doubt as to how strong his tendencies are. I see in him a clear pragmatism. That means to me that while he might enact a whole host of new expensive programs if resources were unlimited, he knows they are not. I think he has the intelligence to see out government of an enterprise that must make serious adjustment to be sustainable over the long-term. I think he is trying hard to rise to the occasion. That counts a lot with me.

    For me the test will be whether he really begins to bring our levels of deficit spending backdown to historically sustainable levels. I find it inadvisable to credit current admin spending levels to the “just another tax and spend democrat” hypothesis just yet. Massive government spending in response to a severe economic downturn is in my view a defensible response. I feel pretty certain that were we talking about President McCain today, you’d be just as pissed about the checks HE had been bouncing. :-)

    here’s the thing: my survey of human nature leads me to seriously question whether even the most committed deficit hawk would stick to his guns if placed in the position of being the President of the United States. Presuming sanity and ordinary levels of empathy, of course.

    I imagine such a person with committed fiscal ideas envisioning his or herself the king or the queen of all the switches at the head of a vast nation. And I imagine the nightmare resulting from all the cuts and the pain. I imagine that person thinking “they will say that I watched it all collapse and did nothing to help.” The next morning, they get out the checkbook.

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