Today’s falling stock prices appear to comprise the biggest percentage drop since September 2008–the crash that ensured Barack Obama would be elected president that fall. At that time, there was no question who the public would blame for the calamity: lame duck President George W. Bush and anything and anyone associated with his eight years in office, including the Republican Party. This week, investors are apparently scared stiff about the continuing debt problems of Europe as well as by the after effects of the debt ceiling showdown in the United States. But the sword hanging over everything is the very real possibility the tepid recovery from the 2008 collapse may morph into another deep recession.
The question political observers must ask now is whether or not President Obama can evade responsibility for the disastrous economic situation?
As to who is to blame, there is little question that in a stroke of irony worthy of a great novelist, Democrats will attempt to make the Tea Party the scapegoat for a collapse that was created by governments living beyond their means. While it is true the decision to take a stand on raising the debt ceiling may have helped fuel the uncertainty afflicting the markets, the idea the recent confrontation is the reason why the economy is falling apart is absurd. Yet, that is probably going to be the key talking point for Democrats in the coming days, weeks and months as they attempt to explain why their president and party ought not to take responsibility for what has happened.
It bears repeating the tragic unemployment and growth figures that foreordained the coming slowdown preceded the debt ceiling standoff. Nor can the parlous situation in Europe — where the debt problems afflicting Greece as well as those of Spain and Italy continue to spook the market — be in any way attributed to the desire of a large faction of Republicans to decrease spending and hold the line against higher taxes.
The demonization of the Tea Party has been the prime objective of liberals for more than a year. Despite being smeared as racists or violent extremists, this broad-based grassroots movement helped catapult the Republicans to victory in the 2010 elections. Yet, some Democrats seem to think calling the Tea Partiers “terrorists” will do the trick in the next election cycle. It is to be expected this week’s stock market dive will be linked in such arguments to portray congressional hardliners as the successors of Herbert Hoover or at least George W. Bush.
We don’t know for sure whether such efforts will work, but to assume they will is to believe the American people haven’t paid attention to the last decade of history. Our current sad state of economic affairs is the result of years of government profligacy the Tea Party and like-minded conservatives have long opposed. To believe that those who wish government to live within its means will take the blame for a collapse caused by the failure to do so requires a creative leap of imagination. That does not correspond to the generally sober attitude of the American people to such things. The voters deserve more credit. The notion President Obama can evade responsibility for a double-dip recession by ranting about the Tea Party is a Democratic pipe dream.