Guitar-picking virtuoso, Glen Campbell, was once asked, derisively I assume, if he could read music. He said he could read music, but not so much that it got in the way of his picking. Not to suggest a comparison, but I'm pretty sure that if I'd ever taken a course in writing poetry, I'd never write another poem; so I hold onto my shield of ignorance to protect my fun. I think it's probably the same with formal rhetoric and blogging. If I knew all the rules and pitfalls of rhetoric, I'd probably just freeze up.
President Obama is one of the best speakers (and probably one of the best rhetoricians) I've ever heard. He can put words together like few others can. However, he pulls a few tricks on his listeners that I find insulting to my intelligence. I worry that others might not even notice, so here I go again, stating the obvious.
It is true that the President inherited the financial crisis and resulting recession, and I think it's fair for him to remind us of that from time to time. So far, so good. But all too often, he slips in a little spin to the effect that "the present crisis is the result of eight years of the failed economic policy of the previous administration." At that point there is a brief allusion to tax-rate cuts or trickle-down economics, something that I've never heard anyone advocate.
Another variation goes something like this: "Why would we want to adopt the same policies to get us out of this mess [usually meaning tax-rate cuts] that got us into this mess in the first place."
You've heard other versions of the same theme: since this crisis developed when the previous administration was in office, it was their fault, and every policy they ever espoused was, ipso facto, responsible. That little hide the pea shell game must have a formal name in rhetoric, but I'm satisfied just to call it a lack of common sense and an insult to our intelligence. He knows better, but he thinks we won't.
To belabor the obvious for the record, the financial crisis began when the making of mortgage loans increasingly shifted out of reputable commercial banks and thrifts to mortgage brokers, many of whom made loans that they (and the borrower) knew, or should have known, could not be repaid, especially after the interest-rate adjusted on the variable-rate mortgages. The brokers got their fees and sold the loans to other financial institutions which "securitized" them or included them in packages of mortgage-backed securities that were sold all over the world. This separation of the decision to make the loan from the bearer of the risk of the loan created a giant moral hazard that few recognized at the time, largely because the activity had moved outside the purview of the established regulators and into no-man's land.
Once the inevitable defaults started, we learned that our financial institutions were much more fragile than we had thought, loaded with too much debt relative to capital. The problem was aided and abetted by rating agencies that gave their stamp of approval to the securities containing toxic waste, and the problem was magnified by side-bets (credit-default swaps) on repayment of these instruments and many others without appropriate reserves put aside to cover possible payouts. It's easy to see how that could happen since those providing the insurance generally assumed they were insuring against a "black swan" event-too remote to worry about.
Regulators were also at fault-not so much because of failure to police institutions in their jurisdiction, but by not noticing and blowing the whistle on the movement of this activity outside any of their jurisdictions. It thrived between the regulatory cracks, and by definition no regulator is in charge of the cracks.
A big part of the policy problem was the government promotion of home ownership to the extent of giving mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ever higher quotas to meet. Efforts were made to reign in Fannie and Freddie, but they were rebuffed by Congress, which made the problem much bigger by the time it was recognized. So there was some government policy responsibility involved. Unfortunately for the legitimacy of the President's argument, the "previous administration" was the one trying to fix the problem.