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Dow 11,000 Ends the Right-Wing Obama Bear Market Myth

April 13, 2010

For the millions of Americans struggling to find jobs or pay their mortgages, the Dow Jones' flirtation with 11,000 isn't particularly meaningful. But for the legions of right-wing talking heads who even before the November 2008 election declared Barack Obama's supposed "socialism" would "tank the market," the Dow's 38% gain since Obama's inauguration is indeed telling. While the renewed economic growth, the improving employment picture and the bull market itself may not yet signal the end of the Bush Recession, they are the final nails in the coffin of the conservatives' Obama bear market myth.
The first installment of the Republicans' "previsionist" history unsurprisingly came from CNBC host and former Reagan advisor Larry Kudlow. That right-wing water carrier, who in April 2008 compared the deepening recession to an enema (calling it "an economic cleansing" and crowing that "recessions are therapeutic"), blamed a one-day 242-point drop on the Democratic Convention:

"Are the Denver Dems downing the stock market today? The Dow is off 230 points, starting right from the get-go. So-called market analysts are blaming financials and the credit crunch as they always do. But there's more.
Obama and Biden gave us plenty of class warfare in their Springfield, Ill., get together on Saturday. Tax the rich. Redistribute income and wealth. Go after all those corporate meanies. Trade protection...
...With the Denver Dems strutting their stuff, this could be a bumpy week for stocks. Did anyone say free-market capitalism is the best path to prosperity?"

With Obama's election on November 4th, that warning shot turned into a barrage. Within 48 hours, the mullahs of right-wingistan didn't merely blame Obama for two days of market declines; they traveled back in time to lay the entire Bush recession at his feet.
Echoing CNBC's Kudlow, Dick Morris claimed the markets will "continue to tank...not just because he's a radical, not just because he's a Democrat, but because he's going to raise the capital gains tax. While Fox News' Gretchen Carlson announced, "there's a lot of feeling in the market not reacting very well to the election of Barack Obama," Fred Barnes proclaimed, "There is great uncertainty out there about [Obama's] policies." And that Thursday, the always execrable Rush Limbaugh on November 6, 2008 laid it all at Obama's feet:

"The Obama recession is in full swing, ladies and gentlemen. Stocks are dying, which is a precursor of things to come. This is an Obama recession. Might turn into a depression. He hasn't done anything yet but his ideas are killing the economy. His ideas are killing Wall Street...
...The market's down today because of the jobless numbers. That's how the Drive-Bys see it. Uhhhhh, we have the largest market plunge after an election in history. Thank you, man-child Barack Obama."

As the Dow Jones continued its slide below 7,000 in March, 2009, the conservative catcalls become a chorus. CNN's Lou Dobbs, the self-proclaimed "Mr. Independent," announced on March 9, 2009, "This is now the Obama bear market." That same day, the Wall Street Journal declared, "The dismaying message here is that President Obama's policies have become part of the economy's problem." House Minority Leader John Boehner was among the Republican leaders bemoaning "the Obama economy" and insisted that since Obama's inauguration six weeks earlier, "Certainly the stock market hasn't acted very well." Later that month, the Journal's Daniel Henninger blasted Obama's "radical presidency":

"A Democratic Party that was always anti-Wall Street is becoming anti- Main Street."

The drumbeat hardly ended there. On March 8, 2009, Fox News host Chris Wallace asked an uncomfortable John McCain, "Can this now fairly be called the Obama bear market?" That propaganda only echoed the Republican talking points regurgitated two days earlier by Bloomberg in article titled, "'Obama Bear Market' Punishes Investors as Dow Slumps" and the Wall Street Journal rant, "Obama's Radicalism is Killing the Dow." On March 6th, Sean Hannity was nearly orgasmic as he trumpeted the declines on Wall Street:

And our headline this Friday night: Welcome to Day Number 46 of "Obama's Bear Market." Now, that's what some news organizations are calling it tonight as the Dow Jones industrial average actually finished up about 30 points today at the end of a disastrous week.
According to Bloomberg News, the Dow has now dropped faster during the first six weeks of the Obama administration than any other administration in at least 90 years. But is that a surprise after weeks of talking down the economy?

But then a funny thing happened on the way to the Obama poor house: the stock market started its steady, upward swing. But for the conservative commentariat, of course, credit for that progress did not go to President Obama.

On April 18, 2009, Fox News displayed an on-screen caption proclaiming, "Stocks Rally as 'Tea Party' Rallies Take Nation by Storm. Host Brenda Buttner described the surge on Wall Street as "a Tea Party rally." As Media Matters recounted:

Buttner later asked Bulls & Bears commentator Gary B. Smith: "[P]art of the tea party was having voices heard. For so long, all we were hearing about was nationalizing banks and socialism and all that. Just having this out there, does that help Wall Street? Does that help the bulls?" Smith responded: "Absolutely, Brenda. You know, first of all, you heard for so many weeks and months that, you know, the whole country, you know, Obama won overwhelmingly, and it looked like, you know, we were going to go lockstep down this, you know, this socialist path." He continued: "And then we started having these tea parties," which, according to Smith, "shows that ... the normal, average American is just kind of sick of all the, you know, the tax-and-spend culture." He concluded: "So, I think it's all a good thing, and I think that it's helped the rally."

But it was Neil Cavuto of the Fox Business Channel who takes the cake for trying to claim that, well, black is white. As the Dow soared past 10,000 last October, Cavuto asked:

What was once the Bush recession is now the Bush recovery?

And so it goes. On his March 18, 2010 show, Larry Kudlow asked CNBC's Jim Cramer about his belief that "Obamacare will topple the stock market." Since then, the Dow has jumped another 2.1%. But with George W. Bush in the White House in April 2007, Kudlow expressed a different view of what the Wall Street's performance said about presidential leadership on the economy. This morning, Paul Krugman helpfully recalled Kudlow's words:

"I have long believed that stock markets are the best barometer of the health, wealth and security of a nation. And today's stock market message is an unmistakable vote of confidence for the president."

So much for the Obama bear market.
(For more history on how the stock market and the economy overall do better under Democratic presidents, see "Democrats. Saving American Capitalism Since 1933.)

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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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