Friday, October 05, 2012
What Color Is Your Lambo, 2012 Edition
Again we reach the time where month-to-month economic data, ignored for years at a time, data only tangentially related to the power of executive office, becomes the basis upon which we make long-term political decisions. Some new unemployment numbers came out today, they look good for the President, especially in light of his punch-pulling, wonky performance in the first presidential debate.
I think that people vastly overestimate the control the President has over many elements of the economy, especially the stock market. However, people tend to use some of these indicators as measurements of the President's success, especially right around election time.
"It's the economy, stupid," as James Carville memorably said. Obama got a boost in 2008 from bad numbers rolling out in the early fall. Reagan destroyed Carter in 1980's stagflating economy.
This year, if Romney is to charge back, it will be on the strength of bad economic news as he follows the standard challenger's game-plan - assail the incumbent as the cause of any and all things bad in the country. Write some checks with your mouth that your ass may or may not be able to cash once you get elected. Obama did the same to the GOP in 2008, and found out that steering the economy isn't quite the same as ordering an admiral where to take his aircraft carrier. Perhaps this is because the President is really just the people's elected zeitgeist, one who is expected to set the tone for the country through his or her leadership.
This all reminds me of a recent Freakonomics podcast (which was in fact an updated reprise of a 2010 podcast). If you want to know what people as diverse as Don Rumsfeld, Joe Maddon, John Ashcroft and a whole crapload of economists think about the actual power (or lack thereof) of the presidency, check out this March, 2012 episode of Freakonomics Radio. Rumsfeld's opinions are perhaps the most interesting. As much as I dislike the guy's personality and politics, he has been either an advisor to or cabinet member for every GOP president since Nixon.
Freakonomics Radio, March 29, 2012 - The Power of the President