Obama supporters ask, ‘What could President Obama have done differently on economy’?

This was essentially the question that Bloomberg View’s Jonathan Alter and the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein asked recently. It’s not a new question, and supporters both famous and common have asked it many times. The core of the question implies that all that could have been done was done. But that is incorrect.

The biggest issue that detractors of the Obama Administration policies bring up is the Recovery Act – commonly called the Obama Stimulus, or just Stimulus by most Democrat elected leaders. It was at its start the brain-child of then Speaker of the House Nanacy Pelosi, in October 2008. Under President Bush, Pelosi proposed a meager $50 billion stimulus that was equally limited in the scope of what it could do. With President Obama winning the Presidency, and Congress becoming a supermajority for Deocrats, it literally became a $150 billion monster overnight. It rolled on from there.

In the months that preceded the inauguration, the Obama Stimulus grew weekly. It took on more programs to fund and more money to borrow to fund them. Issues that Democrats had long sought to increase funding to, suddenly became funded with billions of dollars. This is the first thing that President Obama could have altered.

President Obama did not lead on the Stimulus, he cheerleaded. He spoke as a figurehead as Congress determined what the Stimulus would do. The focus was not on infrastructure, the “shovel-ready” jobs that became a joke used by President Obama this year. For those that dispute this, please do explain how $15 billion for more Pell grants creates a job? That’s just one example.

The lack of leadership also shone through in the definition of the purpose of the Stimulus. What is a “saved” job? That has NEVER been defined. According to the calculations of Recovery.gov and many respected news media organizations, a raise is a percentage of a “saved” job. How does that math work out? How can you determine what was or was not “saved”? How can you justify such a vague and useless term.

But such vague answers allow for political showmanship. It allows the White House to claim millions of jobs “saved” or created. It allows for the arguement that “it would be much worse without the Stimulus”. A logic that is unprovable and only useful for winning votes. Given the resources it can be stated and argued that the sky is purple, or that industrialization has prevented a global ice age. Is it true? It doesn’t matter, it sounds good and can win support of voters that agree with the conclusion. This is the biggest failure of the President.

President Obama has been the political embodiment of Billy Crystal’s Fernando – looking good at the expense of doing good. After the abject failure of the much hailed “Summer of Recovery” the Obama Administration didn’t refocus on jobs as the first priority. They just stopped speaking about the Stimulus and moved on to the Health Care Reform. That too was promised to help create jobs. Another empty promise that had little to do with reality.

The Health Care Reform was promised to lower the deficit, it does not. It was promised to reduce the cost of helathcare, it is not. It was promised to allow individuals to keep their current healthcare plans, based on surveys of businesses and their future plans to carry healthcare many will not be able to do so. It was promised to cover everyone in the nation, and it will not.

Again, a law that Democrats have wanted for decades, crafted by the Congress, without leadership from the President, rushed through the legislation process with tricks of legality and quite a few sweetheart backdoor deals, and passed without being read. Nothing in that speaks of benefit to the nation.

Perhaps the biggest and most important thing that President Obama could have done for the economy is to be focused on the needs of the nation. While the President has spent more than 60 televised interviews, speeches, and State of the Union Addresses denoting that his focus is on job creation, plan B of action on creating jobs won’t actually take place until later this week. That’s 2 years and 7 months after the Stimulus was first proposed. More than a year after the complete failure of the “Summer of Recovery”. It’s after continuous recalculations by the CBO and White House on the extended high levels of unemployment, each time projecting no improvement for years going further forward in time than the last calculation.

None of this is new.

If President Obama had taken the leadership of the nation’s outlook on the economy, if he presented a plan B for job creation even a year ago, would the economy be better? If President Obama was willing to simply say, ‘This isn’t working, let’s try something else,’ would the nation have been better off?


Not because things would have turned around. Real economics does not work like that. There would still be a lack of jobs and high unemployment. But the nation would be on a course, set by the leader of the nation, and confidence that we were on the right path would be higher. Consumer confidence in the economy leads to business confidence and thus recovery – at some point. It surely would obfuscate the problems, improving the approval rating of the President and provide him more political clout to enforce changes that are needed.

Instead we have President Obama standing before the nation, in a weakened position and under criticism from world leaders on our fiscal policies, unwilling to face the reality of his failures and posturing arrogantly as he finally presents a plan B. A plan so important to the nation, so sure to create a better economic environment, that it could wait until after the President’s vacation to be revealed. Confidence inspiring indeed.

Thus in conclusion, to answer the titular question, leadership is the answer. That does not imply the best answer, or even the right one. It does not mean that an excercise in mental masturbation – trying to determine what could have happened and what might have been a result -is anything less than ultimately being moot as no matter what is determined as the correct answer the effect on the current status does not change.

But leadership, from the President, is the only path in which progress towards a different economic environment might be possible. It remains to be seen if President Obama will do that on Thusrday. IF not, be assured that on election day, supporters will still be asking the same question, ‘What could President Obama have done differently on economy’?

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About the Author

Michael Vass
Born in 1968, a political commentator for over a decade. Has traveled the U.S. and lived in Moscow and Tsblisi, A former stockbroker and 2014 Congressional candidate. Passionate about politics with emphasis on 1st and 2nd Amendments.

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