The economy is a ball and chain around Obama’s ankle

Todd Bucholz Jan 18, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: As if we needed confirmation that everything in Washington this year is being done with one eye firmly on the November election, no sooner did word leak about the Keystone pipeline decision this morning than House Speaker John Boehner said the president was hurting the economy. ‘Course, the decision by the White House itself was political too, so that’s the way it’s going to be this year — tit for tat on the economy.

Today, we’ve asked two commentators — one Republican, the other a Democrat — to explain on how the economy will almost certainly hurt the other guy worse come Election Day.

First up, alphabetically, from the GOP side, Todd Buchholz.

Todd Buchholz: Long before Donald Trump’s “Apprentice,” Billy Crystal starred in the movie “Mr. Saturday Night.” Crystal plays a crotchety TV host who chews out his staff: “You’re fired! You’re fired!” One guys squeaks, “I don’t work here.” Crystal says, “You’re hired. Now you’re fired! Get outta here!”

Americans aren’t shy about firing their president when the economy flounders. That should worry President Obama. Today the jobless rate is 8.5 percent and drifting lower. But the American people threw out George Herbert Walker Bush in 1992 with a 7.4 percent jobless rate — and he’d won the Gulf War.

Ronald Reagan got the American people to toss Jimmy Carter overboard. Reagan had a great  punchline, worthy of Billy Crystal. “Recession is when your neighbor loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his.”

Reagan, like Obama, inherited a lousy economy. But Reagan won a landslide re-election with patriotic ads that rang true because Reagan himself appeared like a nostalgic Uncle Sam poster. People felt his tax cuts worked. The slogan: “It’s morning in America.” What can Barack Obama say? “It’s 2012, but it’s not the end of the world!”

Obama’s got to do more than prove the Mayans wrong. He’s got to show he’s on the side of discouraged independents. That’s tough when you come off as cool as a be-bop riff. Obama told Rolling Stone he listens to a lot of Miles Davis. But Davis used to play with his back to the audience. A president is not a jazz virtuoso. Instead he’s our national talk show host — Johnny Carson, Brian Williams, Conan, Regis, Letterman and Leno rolled into one. Right now, when Americans see Barack Obama, they’re ready to change the channel.

Ryssdal: Todd Buchholz is a former White House economic adviser. His new book is called “Rush: Why You Need and Love the Rat Race.” Check out the commentary from Democrat Jamal Simmons.

Tell us what you think — write to us.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.