12/31/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

"The Obama Recession": Their Kingdom for a Scapegoat

My cousin Barry is turning the radio dial, and he's heard this static before. When he's in the car and things are boring, he tells me, he'll spend a few minutes listening in on the Folks Who Fulminate. Right-wing radio, that is. And what he's been hearing from them lately has him amused. And amazed. And thinking back.

It was five years ago, two years or so into the Bush administration, that he'd hear certain friends of his argue that it was all Bill Clinton's fault. The economy, that is. The economy that had been booming through most of the Clinton years, that had slowed down even before 9/11, that had stayed down after 9/11 -- the downturn was Clinton's doing, they said. Bush has nothing to do with it. Two years into his first term, and Bush still had nothing to do with it.

"Circle the date when it's no longer Clinton's fault," he wanted to say to them. Pick a date when George W. Bush will finally be responsible for any bad news that happens during the rest of George W. Bush's presidency. They wouldn't do it. The achievements were Bush's. The failures had to be somebody else's.

And now? Five years later? Make way for "The Obama Recession."

Surely by now you've heard of "The Obama Recession." You haven't? What are you -- one of those reality-based types? The Rush Limbaughs and the Sean Hannitys have been absolutely filling the airwaves with talk about "The Obama Recession."

Barack Obama is the reason the economy has gone into meltdown. You didn't realize that. You've been laboring somehow under the idiotic notion that Barack Obama isn't the president of the United States. That he won't be the president until January 20 of 2009, which hasn't happened yet. That whatever economic policies he hopes to put in place won't be in place for months at the earliest.

You've even been under the impression that George Bush is still the guy in charge, to the extent anyone has been in charge. You've been thinking that whatever's gone seriously south, economically speaking, has gone seriously south on his watch, and if anybody's policies or personnel or management style is to blame -- well, what's that old line about where the buck stops?

"No way!" say the Fulminators. Just like you couldn't blame Bush for the bad numbers at the start of his administration -- you had to look to the past -- you can't blame him for the even worse numbers at the end of his administration -- you have to look to the future!

The mere prospect of a Barack Obama victory, the Fulminators want you to believe, was enough to spook the markets and send them into the current tailspin. The mere thought of an Obama presidency, they insist (with a straight face, presumably), had a greater effect on the economy than anything George Bush had done, or failed to do, in the seven-plus years he'd actually been in office.

How many times do they think they can work this scam? They must figure that the whole world consists of just two groups: the Fulminators themselves, and morons.

My cousin Barry is no moron. He knows when he's being played -- and so do plenty of other people. You watch, though: See what happens once Obama's in office. See what the Fulminators say if, two or three years from now, we finally pull out of this mess we're in and the economy starts to surge again. Will they really have brass enough to claim that it's all George Bush's doing?

Of course not. They'll call it "The Palin Boom."

Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at