President Obama has won the Peace Prize, but nobody thinks he deserves the Nobel in economics. Despite $800 billion of economic stimulus and the accumulation of a $1.4 trillion deficit, he has been unable to lower the unemployment rate below 9.8 percent.
So why, after nine months of Obama, do voters, in the latest Rasmussen poll, still blame President Bush — and not Obama — for the economic situation by 55-37? How can Obama skate by without having to account for the failure of his economic program?
Liberalism, particularly in economics, usually is protected by a bodyguard of pessimism. When government intervention and spending fails to yield the predicted results, month after month and year after year, the left sells the notion that these are tough times and that we need to lower our expectations.
In the late '70s, for example, the mantra that "less is more" gripped policymakers. America was in late middle age and facing its decline, inevitable (and even healthy), we were told, after its artificial post-World War II dominance.
Then came Reagan, who showed us all how unrealistic these diminished expectations were and how they could be put to shame if the private sector were truly unleashed. Margaret Thatcher taught the same lesson to British pessimists, clucking at the decline in their island's fortunes.
In the early and mid-'90s, austerity was the order of the day, as President Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich vied with one another to eliminate the deficit by cutting spending. But when Clinton and Gingrich slashed the capital gains tax instead, the economy soared, and the deficit — once ticketed for eradication in seven years — dissolved in 18 months.
Now Obama is succeeding in persuading us that we are entering an era of scarcity and that prosperity will remain a distant goal as we wrestle to the high unemployment that is inevitable in these tough times. The more his economic policies doom us to continued high unemployment, which inhibits the consumer spending that could cure it, the more he will peddle the mantra that joblessness is inevitable.
How long will Obama be able to get away with this shell game? For how many more months will he succeed in shucking off the blame for his failed policies onto Bush?
Unfortunately, it looks like he can do so for as long as the current economic situation continues!
But the key word here is "current." He probably will be able to escape the rap for unemployment and slow or no growth. But all bets will be off when the deficits he introduced trigger inflation and then stagflation.
The collapse of the dollar and the continuation of high deficits and seemingly endless issuance of new money by the Fed make inflation very likely, in the opinion of most economists. This new disease clearly will not be from the hangover of the Bush administration but will be Obama's fault in the eyes of the public. Inflation will be uniquely his and his alone. He won't be able to pretend that he inherited it from Bush. He will get his fair share of the blame, for once.
And it probably arrive just in time to make itself felt in the congressional elections of next year.
© Dick Morris & Eileen McGann