Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has been slamming President Obama for a statement he made about the economy in a recent speech: "We tried our plan," Obama said, "and it worked." Taken out of context, it sounds like he is claiming credit for mending the economy. In context, however, it appears that Obama was referring to the Clinton years as the time when Democrats tried "our plan" -- a plan that included raising taxes -- and the economy did well.
As we noted last week, this is a revisionist view of the Clinton era, which produced its greatest economic boom only after Clinton cut taxes on high-income investors and inheritors in 1997. But it's not hard to see why Romney is playing up Obama's quote. It sounds damning because no one in America believes that Obama's economic plan has worked in any sense of the word -- not even the president himself can possibly believe it.
Unemployment remains above 8 percent, nearly double what it was in the Clinton years. Even more dispiriting, prospects for job creation are grim. Friday's report from the Commerce Department shows that he United States economy is barely growing, and that growth is actually slowing down. Growth in the gross domestic product last quarter was a pathetic 1.5 percent on an annual basis -- even though the recession actually ended in 2009.
It may come as a surprise to Obama, but he cannot argue with the numbers. Whatever the merits of unemployment benefits, food stamps, road repairs, bailouts of state and local governments, and giveaways to green energy companies, these policies do not amount to an economic strategy.
In 2010, voters took the meat-ax to Obama's party, largely because of economic concerns. But the voters were not ignorant of how or when the recession began. According to exit polls, only 24 percent of voters blamed Obama for the economic crisis, which occurred before he had even taken office. Much larger numbers blamed either Wall Street or George W. Bush.
The electorate rejected Democrats anyway in 2010, as Obama acknowledged in his famous "shellacking" speech, because people were impatient with the pace of the economic recovery. Obama has now had an additional year and a half at the nation's political helm, and nothing has changed since he delivered that speech -- including the already-failed solutions he continues to propose and implement. The problem remains massive, and Obama has given Americans no confidence whatsoever in his ability to solve it. This, and not some insubstantial gaffe or out-of-context quote, is the real reason Obama is in danger of losing in November.