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Friday, March 13, 2009

Just Words?

In an attempt to paint for the nation a rosier economic picture, President Obama yesterday told a group of business leaders the economy wasn’t all that bad. Huh?:
"A smidgen of good news and suddenly everything is doing great. A little bit of bad news and ooohh, we're down on the dumps," Obama said. "And I am obviously an object of this constantly varying assessment. I am the object in chief of this varying assessment."

"I don't think things are ever as good as they say, or ever as bad as they say," Obama added. "Things two years ago were not as good as we thought because there were a lot of underlying weaknesses in the economy. They're not as bad as we think they are now."
This is an interesting reversal from the purely apocalyptic language Obama used sell the stimulus last month. For example, in a Washington Post article, Obama warned we were in the midst of “an economic crisis as deep and dire as any since the days of the Great Depression.” He continued:
[E]ach day we wait to begin the work of turning our economy around, more people lose their jobs, their savings and their homes. And if nothing is done, this recession might linger for years. Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs. Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.
There are two possible explanations for Obama’s about face. One, the stimulus worked, we are now at least on the road to recovery, and now we can all relax. Unfortunately this isn’t the case – unemployment and foreclosure rates have risen and the markets have plummeted since passage. As of yet, there is nothing to illustrate the stimulus has worked, which is why top Democrats keep asking the public to give it time.

The other explanation, then, is that Obama is again substituting oratory for sound policy. He forced through a poorly conceived billion dollar spending bill based solely on his warnings of doom and gloom. Now, he is trying to silence critics who contend that his Administration lacks the focus necessary to bring the country out of this downturn by convincing the public that things really are not that bad.

This approach has worked in the past. It will be interesting to see how it plays out this time around.

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