Thus do we have Mitt Romney spouting once again last week that Barack Obama inherited a recession but "made it worse." He's been saying this since at least last June, when he told a crowd in New Hampshire that Obama “did not cause this recession, but he made it worse."
Okay. Let's say a guy has steered a car off the road and is speeding down a steep embankment 90 mph, headed for a precipice. Let's say the guy opens the door, leaps out and rolls away from the car toward a memoirs publisher standing nearby. Just as that happens, another guy manages to leap into the driver's seat and immediately starts trying to turn the car away from the precipice. The car begins to slow and its trajectory shifts, but it's still headed downward, and for quite a while it's all the new driver can do to keep it on the ledge below which lies a very big crack-up.
Meanwhile, some radio-amplified bystanders are shouting, "Over the cliff! Over the cliff! Hope he doesn't make it!" because they don't approve of the way the new driver got into the car in the first place or the route they have surmised he plans to take. They call upon other bystanders to do whatever they can to block the new route from being picked. And those bystanders start shouting: "Get your foot off the brake! Let go of the steering wheel. The car will turn by itself!" And they roll rocks in the way of a change in direction.
Despite this, the driver begins to make headway and the car works its way off the ledge and starts back up the hill. At which point Mitt Romney shouts from the rooftop counting room of one of his nearby vacation homes that the new driver has failed to stop the car in its tracks and get it back on the road as quickly as an expert like he would have done. He claims the driver is still not steering the way a real driver would, that, in fact, the car would have not been in danger at all if he himself had leaped into the driver's seat instead of the guy who did.
Here's what Alan S. Blinder and Mark Zandi at Moody's Analytics had to say about that in their 2010 report in July 2010:
In this paper, we use the Moody’s Analytics model of the U.S. economy—adjusted to accommodate some recent financial-market policies—to simulate the macroeconomic effects of the government’s total policy response. We find that its effects on real GDP, jobs, and inflation are huge, and probably averted what could have been called Great Depression 2.0. For example, we estimate that, without the government’s response, GDP in 2010 would be about 11.5% lower, payroll employment would be less by some 8½ million jobs, and the nation would now be experiencing deflation.
And there is the November assessment of the third quarter of 2011 by the Congressional Budget Office:
• Inflation-adjusted gross domestic product up by between 0.3 percent and 1.9 percent
• The unemployment rate down by between 0.2 percentage points and 1.3 percentage points
• The number of people employed up by between 0.4 million and 2.4 million
• The number of full-time-equivalent jobs up by 0.5 million to 3.3 million.
Many left and center-left critics also had some advice for Obama after he leaped into the driver's seat. In short, that advice was: Do more of what you're already doing. What those critics were saying and what Mitt Romney and Rush Limbaugh and a host of the "made it worse" crowd were and are saying reflects the stark difference between those who openly hoped for a crash and those who ultimately wanted to steer us away from the path that got us headed down that embankment in the first place but knew we had to keep from going over the cliff before that could happen.