— Perri Nelson, February 9, 2010
A bheil Gàidhlig agaibh?
Published Sun, Mar 4 2012 11:00 AM
Yes, Barack Obama is the president while we have suffered through this economy. But, Democrats will rightly point out that the economy began tanking during the presidency of George W. Bush, and that there has been somewhat of a recovery in the economy recently.
They’ll do this, and they’ll be right. Statements to the effect that President Obama “inherited” this economy from his predecessor will still be made, and those that make them will point to the numbers to “prove it”. They can also point to numbers that “prove” that it’s been a long hard road, but the President has turned the economy around.
As the economy continues to recover – even if slowly, you can expect to hear about these things on the campaign trail. Sadly, people will hear these things and be taken in by them – all due to a persistent myth about the presidency that the media continues to push, and that pundits who should know better do as well.
What myth is that? Quite simply that the president is responsible for our economy.
He isn’t you know. Congress is. Sure, the president sets the tone and is the public face of the nation. Sure he runs the executive branches and is in charge of the bureaucracy that actually ends up spending the money that our federal government spends. But the president is not responsible for raising the revenue to pay for that spending, nor is he responsible for enacting the laws that authorize it.
We call the recent health care fiasco Obama Care, but the president isn’t the author of it. Congress is – or more accurately a bunch of congressional staffers are. After all, we know that many congressmen couldn’t be bothered to even read the bill before voting on it – and who could blame them when you actually try to read through the law as passed.
Those massive Keynesian stimulus packages? Sure, they may have been proposed by the president, but they never would have happened without Congress. Those stimulus packages were a failure by the way, no matter what MoveOn.org has to say about it. While our economy has begun improving, it’s still in worse shape than it was when they were enacted, and the improvement isn’t related to the stimuli, which actually made the damage worse.
But let’s examine what I’ve said a little more deeply for a moment. I say that the president is not responsible for the economy. As support, I ask you, which of the presidential powers deals with the economy? Which of the presidential powers deals with the generation of federal revenue or with determining how it may be spent? Can you name one? If so, can you show me where in the Constitution it can be found? Let’s look at his powers and responsibilities as defined in that document (Article II, section 2 and 3). Let’s start with the powers of the president.
- He shall be the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the Unites States
- He may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices
- He shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the Untied States, except in cases of Impeachment.
- He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur
- He shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law; but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
- The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.
That about wraps it up for the powers. Did you notice something? Two out of the six powers granted to the president are only partial powers. If the Senate doesn’t overwhelmingly agree, no treaty signed, no ambassadorial appointment, and no appointment to office made by the President will stand, and he can only fill vacant offices while they’re in recess.
I don’t see establishing a budget in there at all do you? I don’t see the power of the purse listed at all. And yet we still credit the President with the state of the economy, or blame him for it.
Let’s look at the duties of the president too, just to be sure we aren’t missing it somehow…
- He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union
- Recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient
- He may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper
- He shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers
- He shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed
- He shall Commission all the Officers of the United States
That’s it – those are his duties and responsibilities. Section 1 of article II (amended) defines how the President and the Vice president are elected. Section 4 defines how he or any of his appointees can be removed from office.
So, the only thing remotely looking like the President has any responsibility whatsoever for the state of the economy is the fact that he has to report on the state of the union to Congress, and that he can recommend for their consideration various measures.
It seems to me then that it’s a misnomer to call the current economic situation either the Obama economy or the Bush economy…
Whose economy is it then? As I intimated before, it’s the Congress’ economy. Congress holds the power of the purse. Does the current situation become a bit more clear perhaps?
The economy began to falter back about 2007 – 2008 if I recall correctly. When president Obama declares that he inherited a bad economy from his predecessor he’s almost correct, because the economy was souring during president Bush’s term. But the economy belonged to Congress, not the president – and the Congress was completely in the power of which party at the time? Whose policies were they that sent the economy into a tailspin? I would leave that as an exercise for the reader… but I won’t. It was the Democratic Party that held power in both Houses of Congress – and need I point out that president Obama was at that time Senator Obama? – So who truly did he inherit the economy from but himself. Ah, but it’s not truly his even now.
The economy has begun to recover of late. It’s true – although many are still suffering, the corner has been turned. You measure a cycle from the inflection points at the peaks and troughs. We’ve reached bottom and the numbers are starting to improve – but we’re still awfully close to the bottom. Have the president’s policies changed? No? How then can he take credit?
What has changed then? Oh, that’s right – control of the House of Representatives has shifted back to the Republican Party. The House has begun enacting measures that can help to improve the economy… but wait – the recovery has been delayed, and it’s still pretty slow.
What could be the cause of that? Why nothing less than a Senate that refuses to pass a budget, or to bring to a floor vote any of the bills that have come through from the House – except in dribs and drabs. We have Senate leaders saying we don’t need a budget. We have Senate leaders refusing to even give a chance for a floor vote to many measures that would improve the economy.
Now I’m not saying that the party in control of the Congress matters that much. Both parties have drifted far to the side of big government over the last dozen decades or so, but at least when Republicans are in control you’ll see more of a trend toward fiscal responsibility than when Democrats are in control. We’d do even better if more Republicans truly held to conservative ideals rather than populism – but that’s a dream – or as many on the left would say a nightmare.
In any case, there’s a plain solution to our economic distress, and it has little to do with who we choose for President in the coming election. We need to clean up Congress!
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