Friday, October 3, 2008

Quarterbacks and presidents

In general, quarterbacks get too much credit for their team's success and too much blame for their failure. The public often views the president as the quarterback of the economy during their term and likewise too much credit and blame are handed out.

Joe Namath won a Super Bowl with the New York Jets, and he is famous for it. Of course, it helps that he won the championship in New York, and it helps that he was a good looking guy who got along with the press. But his star shines more brightly than it should, given his mediocre career statistics, while QB's with no championships, like Fran Tarkenton, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly, are not given the credit that is due to them. John Elway, another quarterback with gaudy career stats, avoided the "never won the big one" tag by winning two Super Bowls in the last two seasons of his illustrious career, largely because his team had a great running game to complement his passing ability and a strong defense.

Presidents get scorn heaped upon them if there were hard economic times during their terms, but sometimes it isn't deserved. Over the past 40 years or so, economic troubles have had much more to do with the relative price of crude oil than the have with the party in power. Nixon, Ford and Carter all had to deal with spikes in the price of crude, and Nixon even introduced wage and price freezes to try to slow inflation, much to the disgust of free market fundamentalists like Milton Friedman. Carter was one of the few who talked to Americans as though we were adults, and actually made efforts to work on the root cause, the addiction to oil. He signed into law standards mandating higher fleet gas mileage from Detroit. Little has been done in this regard since.

While I give the three presidents of the 1970's something of a pass for the troubles we saw back then, I also don't give Reagan's tax cuts and massive deficits much credit for the boom times of the 1980's or Clinton's attempt to balance the budget much credit for the economic growth of the 1990's. Both enjoyed the benefit of computers revolutionizing our economy, though that boom in the 1990's was a bubble of unreasonable expectations.

But sometimes a quarterback deserves a lot of credit for a great team, like Joe Montana or Troy Aikman, or the blame for a team's downward spiral, like Danny White or David Woodley. Likewise presidents and their handling of the economy can be deservedly praised or slammed. Bush and Cheney didn't make gas prices skyrocket during their regime, but they did nothing to help the public and often made moves that actually benefited the gouging bastards in the industry they both called home.

But what seals Bush's fate to be placed among the worst presidents of all time is this last disaster he has handed us, because it was avoidable. Unable to admit error, Bush and the Republicans kept a sunny spin on the economy all through the long and obvious slide. Inflation, unemployment and loss of real buying power were ignored or underestimated, and any economic indicator that wasn't in the toilet was held up as the obvious true sign of economic strength. Economic Cassandras, including the still self-proclaimed conservative Kevin Phillips, pointed out the obvious problems of rising energy prices and a negative national savings rate, which included the private and public sector as well as households, and this was not even a topic of conversation in Washington. Every Republican candidate for office was all about how terrific the economy was, with the exception of "crazy" Ron Paul. Fred Thompson, he of the booming voice and brain of the complexity of a flatworm, called the American economy "the greatest story never told".

And now the American taxpayer is stuck with the fuzzy end of the lollipop once again, but only after the bill could be so overloaded with pork that enough thieving representatives from both sides of the aisle would sign it into law.

Like when Barack Obama caved on the FISA bill, I have a lot less enthusiasm today than I did yesterday about his candidacy due to this bad piece of legislation. I won't change my vote, I won't bring down the Obama-Biden picture on my blog, because the alternative is quite literally no future at all. But the long road back for America to be seen with respect in the world just got a little longer, and in my darkest moods I wonder if there is any way back for us at all.


Karen Zipdrive said...

It'll turn out okay, Matty Boy.
Once Obama gets in and all the other countries in the world think we're cool for electing him, then we can start feeling smug and superior again and our dollar will regain its value so much that even French waiters will have to be nice to us.
And Canadians can wipe those smug grins off their faces, eh?
And just think of how much better it'll be to hear rhythm & blues coming out of the White House instead of Abba.

Matty Boy said...

Thanks for the pep talk, karen, but actually the dollar is regaining value as we speak, even when we were told things were ever so bad.

I think we the people have been had big time.

afeatheradrift said...

I had a friend about 30 years ago, who believed the complete fall of the American economy was due, and advised to buy everything on credit, since the collapse was imminent. Well, he was off by 30 years, but I think it's right on now. I am seriously wondering what kind of holy mess Obama will inherit and what on earth can be done.

namastenancy said...

I'm with you but then, while I liked Obama, I've had some criticisms of him right from the start. However, as an old lefty, I would, wouldn't I? I am seriously beginning to think of leaving SF, maybe even California and moving to live with my sister in the midwest. Their total mortgage is less than the rent on my rent controlled apartment and they have a multi-level house with a whole bottom floor where I could live quite comfortably. I'm tired of living in yuppie central, at the mercy of the loud crude jerks upstairs and seeing the city I love being destroyed piece by piece. I can't afford anything in the Bay Area or I would have moved last year when the 20-somethings moved in and proceeded to live out their mantra "we're young dudes and we're here to PARTY!" They are a living example of the kinds of rich, selfish a-hats that are bringing this country to its knees.
OK - enough of the rant.