Fifty percent of the respondents in an AP-GfK poll taken last month believe that the president has little to no effect on the American economy. The poll consisted of telephone and cell phone interviews with 1,007 adults across the country.
While GfK markets its polling methodology as reliable, it is not described as drawing from a representative cross section of the nation. So, it’s uncertain whether the belief in the president’s irrelevancy to the economy is shared by 50 percent of the electorate. If it is, Obama has lowered the performance bar so much that half of the voters believe the person in the Oval Office doesn’t matter.
These poll respondents are wrong, of course, but they hardly can be blamed for their mistaken belief. It’s similar to the Stockholm syndrome where some kidnap victims who are held long enough begin to identify with their captors. We’ve been captive to incompetence for so long, it has begun to define our expectations. That’s a scary concession to performance failure.
Those who believe in the president’s negligible impact on the economy give three reasons in addition to, “I don’t know why”. Some respondents view congressional intransigence as an insurmountable obstacle to presidential action. However, that is only true under limited circumstances.
In Obama’s case, his party controlled Congress for his first two years in office giving him free rein to realize his economic agenda. The result was a parade of ineffective mortgage relief programs and a stimulus package that allowed the unemployment rate to soar above 10 percent. One year after its signing, three million fewer people were employed than when the ink dried.
Naked ineptitude prevented the stimulus from being the boon that Obama promised it would be. To begin with, the economy was in much worse shape than the administration’s naïve 2009 predictions. The stimulus, once enacted, was not directed at businesses. The bulk of the spending was merely a wealth transfer to state governments, many of which have been financially mismanaged for years. Worse than subsidizing people who can't balance a budget, the least needy states received the most money.
Meanwhile, Obama wasted credibility capital preaching that the stimulus would fund “shovel-ready” jobs only to confess later that, to his surprise, those jobs don’t exist. As for excuses, even Barney Frank winces at the president’s fantastical failed-stimulus mantra: things could have been worse without me.