The burgeoning ‘inheritance’ talking point

On Fox News yesterday, this chyron appeared on screed during Megyn Kelly’s show: “White House Argues It ‘Inherited’ A Bad Economy.”

Of course, it’s not really an argument; it’s just a statement of fact. This makes it sound as if there’s some lingering question that remains unanswered, when we’re dealing with demonstrable truths.

As Jeremy Holden explained, “Between the 2008 election and Obama’s inauguration, the economy lost 2 million jobs. Economists at the Bureau of Economic Analysis recently reported that the economy shrunk by 8.9 percent during the third quarter of 2008 — the fastest rate of contraction in 50 years. It’s not really up for debate whether Obama inherited a bad economy.”

But I have a sinking feeling the chyron is part of a larger message push from the right — were things really that bad when Obama took office?

Two weeks ago, Rush Limbaugh said the president “inherited … an unemployment rate of 5.7%” from Bush. A week later, Sean Hannity went a little further, saying Obama “inherited unemployment at 5.6%” from Bush. They’re both wrong — the unemployment rate was 7.6% on Inauguration Day 2009 and it was climbing fast. These two just made up statistics, apparently out of thin air.

The point, though, is why they made this up. Plenty of polls show that the public doesn’t necessarily blame President Obama for the mess that started long before he took office, so, over the next year, Republican media outlets will have to make an effort to convince people otherwise. Instead of, “White House Inherited A Bad Economy” we see, “White House Argues It ‘Inherited’ A Bad Economy.”

Just to refresh these outlets’ memories, when Obama took office, the nation was in freefall. Arguably no president in American history started his first day with a list like this: the Great Recession, two deadly wars, a jobs crisis, a massive deficit and budget mess, crushing debt, a health care system in shambles, a climate crisis, an ineffective energy policy, an equally ineffective immigration policy, a housing crisis, the U.S. auto industry on the verge of collapse, a mess at Gitmo, a severely tarnished global reputation, an executive branch damaged by corruption, incompetence, and mismanagement, and an angry, deeply divided electorate.

It was, by most measures, the worst national conditions ever faced by a newly-elected president.

Republican media outlets would prefer voters believe Bush bequeathed a healthy, prosperous nation. That’s insane.