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Is It the Clinton or Bush Economic Downturn? (posted December 23, 2000)

With consumer confidence down sharply, retail stores reporting less robust sales, and economic growth starting to slow, the big political battle is over who deserves the blame. Seeking to demonstrate that the slowdown took place well before Inauguration Day, both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have raised the prospect of an impending recession and are using that to buttress their argument in favor of a big income tax cut.

President Clinton, in contrast, denies the likelihood of a recession and claims it is no surprise growth is slowing after several years of phenomenal economic vitality. Behind the scenes, Clinton operatives are spreading the word that the economy is slowing because Bush and Cheney are expressing their doubts in public and drawing a "like father, like son" parallel between the Bush recession of 1991-92 and any economic downturn in 2001.

It remains to be seen how voters will view the softening economy. Will they label it a Clinton downturn due to the administration's failure to cut taxes or will they blame the new administration? Whichever way voters go will in large part determine the fate of the Bush presidency. If voters see Bush as responsible, look for big Democratic gains in 2002. If blame is pinned on the out-going administration, the downturn will give Bush a powerful argument in favor of a tax cut to revive the economy.
Copyright 2000Karen Martin Media Services