7. I’ll Take The Credit, You Take The Blame
If you listen to politicians very much, you’ll realize something very important. They never make mistakes when it comes to public policy. Only the OTHER GUY makes mistakes. You see it all the time. One guy takes office and the country starts going downhill. He and his supporters will swear up and down that his policies have nothing to do with it. It was that despicable guy in office before him that caused all the problems. Just give him time and he will take our country to the promised land flowing with milk and honey (and hopefully caffeine-free diet Mountain Dew).
On the other hand, if things begin to improve after he takes office, even if this was due to policies put in place by his predecessor, he’ll take ALL the credit. Then the predecessor’s supporters will be sure to point out that the present office holder didn’t do that, it was their man who held that office previously. They will also point out how the new guy is going to screw everything up royally by undoing their guy’s hard work.
This behavior also works in another way. Oftentimes the US Congress will be controlled by one party while the Presidency is held by another party. If Congress passes a law that was opposed by the President, the latter will sometimes sign it anyway due to being in a compromising mood or because he senses that the citizenry will look badly on him if he doesn’t. More rarely, he might veto the bill, forcing Congress to override it. Now suppose that the law ends up having a positive effect on the country. I guarantee you that the President will be telling everyone how he was a great supporter of that bill and attempt to take the credit for it. If he vetoed the bill, he’ll find a way to still take credit by saying something like the bill was flawed when he vetoed it, but changes were made before the override vote that greatly improved it. If, on the other hand, the law is a disaster, he will be blaming Congress and making excuses for why he signed it or taking credit for vetoing it.
You see, it is just not in the DNA of a politician to pass up credit for something good or take the blame for something bad.
But I must admit that sometimes it is not clear whether the actions of our politicians do good or harm. Economies can take years to fully respond to a new law or regulation. By the time the effect, good or bad, comes to fruition, many other actions will have been taken. It can be extremely difficult untangling what actions caused what effects. Also, actions can have multiple consequences. Some can be good, others bad. When this happens, the politician who supported an action will talk up the good results while the politician who opposed an action will talk up the bad results. Usually, these talking points will involve statistics which, as I mentioned in a previous post, can be used to prove just about anything. Most people don’t have the time to study in detail what they are saying to come to their own conclusions, so they just continue to believe their preferred candidate and reject the others. It would be nice if there were a lot of objective investigative journalists who spent the time needed to find the truth, but they seem to be a rare breed these days. Perhaps there would be more if they had been put on the endangered species list.