Obama's first term as president has been marked by rising gas prices, high unemployment and little economic growth. Yet he was able to win reelection, in part, because a large percentage of Americans did not believe that the country's current economic plight was the result of his doing. They instead blamed former President George W. Bush for much of the economic turmoil that has beset the United States in the past few years.
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Polling Shows ...
Several different polls have clearly shown that the American people assign a great deal of blame to Bush for the country's economic woes. A Gallup poll in the summer of 2009 showed that nearly 80% of Americans assigned at least some of the blame for the economy to Bush, while only 32% believed that Obama was the main culprit. The percentage of those blaming Bush had only dropped by 10% by August of 2010, and subsequent surveys have shown that this number has remained relatively steady since then.
Polls that are broken down by political affiliation also reveal some interesting tidbits. A 2012 Gallup survey showed that while the percentage of democrats who blamed Obama for the economy was, predictably, very low (19%), the percentage of republicans who blamed Bush was much higher. While 83% of them assigned some measure of blame to Obama, a whopping 49% also blamed Bush to some degree for the nation's economic status. Surveys also indicate that independent voters also blame Bush more than Obama by a ratio of 67 to 51%.
One of the main reasons why so many Americans blame Bush is due to the two-front war in Iraq and Afghanistan that Bush financed after the terrorist attacks in 2001. This increased the national debt and pumped billions of dollars into an overseas conflict where we spent vast sums of money helping to rebuild Iraq and train both Iraqi and Afghan soldiers and policemen. Many Americans felt that this money could have been much better used to upgrade our own infrastructure.
If the money that was spent in the Middle East had instead gone to shoring up our lending industry, then this debacle might have been avoided. Bush's failure to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden during his administration also made it more difficult for him to justify the need to continue to fund the longest-fought conflict in U.S. history.
The Subprime Disaster
The Subprime Mortgage Meltdown of 2008 is another major source of blame for Bush. Some critics contend that his wholesale deregulation of Wall Street was a key factor in the subsequent real estate bubble and collapse, and allowed many financial firms to engage in risky trading practices that eventually led to disaster. His tax cuts for the wealthiest 5% of taxpayers are also viewed as having deprived the country of billions of dollars of tax revenues over his two terms.
Critics also feel that Bush did little to help homeowners in the wake of the subprime crisis, although he was quick to bail out the banking industry. His Hope for Homeowners program did virtually nothing to assist those who had become upside down on their mortgages, and statistics indicate that one in three are still facing this dilemma today.
Bush is also perceived as helping to reduce the wages of many workers by chipping away at Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and worker safety regulations while helping corporations to reap greater profits.
The Bottom Line
Of course, there are many sides to this issue, and a fair amount of knowledge and education is required in order to even understand much of it. But public perception ultimately determines who gets into the White House, and the perception of who is to blame for the economy played a major role in Obama's reelection.