Saturday, October 20, 2012

No, RNC, I did not grade POTUS a C (but I would give Romney an F)


I woke up this morning a bit surprised to find the RNC declaring that I had graded the President a C.  I did no such thing and don't now.

I was on Hannity's show on Fox who was giving out his grades to the President (as I'm sure you can imagine).  Usually Sean (and other critics of the President) cite parts of the economy where conditions aren't great and then condemn the administration (unemployment is high, incomes are down, GDP growth is slow, and so on).

As a matter of logic, of course, this is ridiculous.  To move an economy in the middle of failing, terribly, and turn it around to growth, even modest growth, is not a failure.  It's one of the hardest things to do that there is.  It's why historians in the years to come will look back at the fact that we did not have a depression in early 2009, despite an economic and financial hit bigger than the one of 1929, as a major achievement.

I find the critics' argument to be like complaining that Humpty-Dumpty is only half put back together again when you know perfectly well that Humpty was in the middle of a great fall when the President stepped on the scene.

So when Hannity asked for a grade, I made clear that I was grading the economic CONDITIONS (and not the President's policy) as a C.  And I observed that this was a significant turnaround from the economy's condition when he took office which I gave the lowest F of our lifetimes.  I said the President's own grade was clearly passing the course and we were waiting to see how he does on his final this November. Sean said that meant 'incomplete' and I said "No, that is not an incomplete."

I did not give the President a C or an incomplete. But I will give the RNC a 98% for sleazy parsing.

Economic conditions are recovering. Thank God. We are not fully recovered. We are recovering.  Things aren't horrible and getting worse--which is exactly what they were in January of 2009.  Things are getting better.

And given the concerted opposition the President has faced from Republicans on everything he has proposed, including things that they, themselves, proposed just a few years ago, I would say that he's entitled to a generous dab of extra credit.

Hearing Mitt Romney advocating the same policy with the same rationale and backed by the same advisors as George W Bush did (abolish the estate tax, cut high income rates, deregulate the financial sector, etc.) remains the most puzzling thing about this election.  Did we not all live through the same decade in this country?

The first term of George Bush's following those policies created more than 1 million fewer private sector jobs than Obama's first term did--and that is even including the millions of jobs lost in the first few months of Obama's term that everyone understands were not of his doing. Then in the second term of President Bush following those policies, the economy collapsed.

When I think about that record and the fact that Mitt Romney is re-proposing those policies, I guess it reminds me of the story of the old Nobel Laureate here at Chicago Booth named George Stigler.  A student came to Stigler upset with how he did on the test and said "isn't there any way you can change my grade?" The old man looked at the student's answers and then said, "No, I don't think so.  I'm afraid that 'F' is the lowest grade I can give."