Can A President Really Fix A Bad Economy? : NPR
President Obama’s problem is not unusual. Every president gets the blame when times are bad. “If there’s one issue over which a president can lose an election, it’s the economy,” says Stephen Weatherford, a political scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Presidents can influence fiscal policy, if they have the support of Congress — which Obama lacks at this point. But even when presidents can persuade Congress to go along, there are limits to how much they can influence the economy as a whole, Weatherford says. They can’t force firms to hire workers or banks to lend money, for instance. Nevertheless, presidents always receive either more credit or blame than they deserve for the way things are going. “Expectations are high for the president — too high and unrealistically high,” says George C. Edwards III, a presidential scholar at Texas A&M University. That’s a political reality every modern president has understood. “There’s such an exaggerated view of what they can do,” says presidential historian Robert Dallek. President Taft said that “people think the presidents can make the grass grow and the skies turn to blue. It’s simply out of their reach.” Here’s a quick survey of how presidents have responded to economic challenges in recent decades. Scroll down to see how three key economic indicators changed during each administration.