Economic policy affects the economy
Though I'm glad to see the president of the United States acknowledging that elections are primarily driven by economic factors, it's weird that he thinks this constitutes a defense of his administration:
President Obama said in an interview broadcast Sunday night that he views last week’s mid-term Congressional elections as “a referendum on the economy” rather than a referendum on him, his policies or the Democratic Party.
While he said he should be held accountable for the economy as the nation’s leader, he did not accept the suggestion that he pursued the wrong agenda over the last two years, and he focused blame on his failure to build public support for what he was doing or to change the way Washington works.
This is borderline incoherent. The reason the president should be held accountable for the economy is because his policies influence it. Calling the election a referendum on the economy but not his policies only makes sense if the two have nothing to do with each other.
Now, it's possible that nothing Obama could have done would have put unemployment in a place where voters would be satisfied. Kevin Drum made a convincing case a few weeks back that even a much bigger stimulus would not have cut unemployment by enough to make any electoral difference, and financial-crisis-induced recessions usually have slow recoveries. But insofar as some action of Obama's – like proposing a bigger stimulus, or not renominating Ben Bernanke as Fed chair – could have reduced unemployment further and in turn limited Democratic losses, the extra losses created by not taking that action are a result of his policies.
Dylan Matthews is a student at Harvard and a researcher at The Washington Post.
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