Yesterday’s dismal economic news gives the Romney-Ryan ticket the chance to remind voters that President Obama has continually promised us that recovery is ongoing or just around the corner. The Romney campaign this morning is highlighting the Wall Street Journal editorial board’s terse condemnation of Obama’s economic stewardship:
Mr. Obama really believed that government spending would unleash a robust recovery in employment and housing—an “economy built to last.” Now that this hasn’t happened and with the Congressional Budget Office predicting a possible recession for 2013, Team Obama claims these woeful results were the best that could have been expected.
The problem with this line is that every President who has inherited a recession in modern times has done better. . . . Under Mr. Obama, measured on the basis of jobs, GDP growth and incomes, this has been by far the meekest recovery from the past 10 recessions.
The central question for the campaign has become whether Obama can convince voters things are on the upswing, or if not there was no other conceivable road to recovery. (“Mr. Obama is running for re-election trying to convince Americans that an economy limping at less than 2% growth, 8% unemployment, real incomes down 5.7% since the recovery began, and deficits of more than $1 trillion is the best we could achieve.”)
But of course this is nonsense. What if, in the first two years, Obama had not pursued the job-crushing, tax-hiking Obamacare legislation but instead had gotten through meaningful tax reform (along the lines Simpson-Bowles proposed) while dealing with our long-term debt problems through entitlement reform. What if, instead of succumbing to Big Labor’s lobbying efforts, the president hadn’t waited three years to pass three free-trade agreements negotiated by the Bush administration and instead promptly passed them and then negotiated additional free-trade deals to open markets, boost exports and help revive manufacturing? What if, instead of nixing the XL Pipeline, Obama had expedited it and given the green light to open natural gas and oil domestic development ? Really, is there any doubt we’d be better off now if he’d done even one of these?
It takes a supreme ego to assert that because Obama failed at the central task of his presidency, economic revival, no one else could have done better. He made a series of policy choices that had real ramifications, both economic and political. He made poor choices and now doesn’t want to accept the consequences of those choices.
It is up to Romney to point out what choices Obama made and the consequences of those choices (e.g. a credit rating downgrade, enormous debt, anemic growth). Romney is saying he will “fact check” Obama in the debate. Bad idea. He needs to give the country a reality check. He can start by debunking the idea that we are on the road to prosperity and Obama did the best that any president ever could have.