The Economist on Barack Obama’s start: High hopes, horrendous workload

Posted by Kendall Harmon

THE party is over. The crowds have gone. The empty tubs of Ben and Jerry’s “Yes, Pecan” ice cream have been binned. Shops are selling “And He Shall Be Called Barack Obama” T-shirts at a generous discount.

But before the new president has got comfortable in the Oval Office, he has been buffeted by bad economic news. American firms announced at least 65,000 job cuts on January 26th alone. Unemployment, which was 4.9% only a year ago, stood at 7.2% in December and is sure to rise. The only bright news was that house sales rose 6.5% between November and December, as buyers snapped up bargains.

Mr Obama spent much of his first week trying to push his gargantuan stimulus package through Congress. The package includes some $275 billion in tax cuts and handouts and $300 billion in short-term spending, such as aid to cash-strapped states for providing health care, unemployment benefits and so forth. The Congressional Budget Office, a non-partisan number-cruncher, reckons about two-thirds of the package could be pumped into the economy within 19 months. That should help soften the recession.

The rest of the package, however, consists of longer-term investments in infrastructure....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama

Posted January 31, 2009 at 7:26 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Karen B. wrote:

And He Shall Be Called Barack Obama

??!!! Whoa.  I’d missed that further evidence of “Messiah” worship.  Scary.

January 31, 10:41 pm | [comment link]
2. Dave B wrote:

In Nov 2008 President Obama promiosed to close Gitmo.  That was over a year ago.  President Obama has military advisers, wise and wonderful people yet NO PLAN!  President Obama takes out his pen and signs an executive order to close Gitmo with NO PLAN!  Presidnet Obama’s “economic stimulus” package has hundreds of million dollars for Birth control, 9 BILLION dollars for groups like ACORN.  I am afraid President Obama is in over his head.

January 31, 11:25 pm | [comment link]
3. John Wilkins wrote:

#2.  Perhaps Obama is.  So would most.

in November, Obama wasn’t president.  He became president about 10 days ago.  He does have a plan.  You exaggerate about the birth control and “groups like ACORN.”  What is that?

Simply fearmongering.

February 1, 1:44 am | [comment link]
4. Ad Orientem wrote:

Clearly there moon must be exerting some odd effect on the alignment of the heavens, as I find myself (at least mostly) in agreement with JW’s #3.  I did not vote for him and have grave reservations about his political ideology.  But come on people.  He has been in office for less than two weeks and is trying to deal with two wars and the worst economic emergency since the 1930’s.  There will be plenty of opportunity (I have confidence on this point) for fair criticism down the road.  But let’s hold our fire at least until he has had enough time to note the location of all the restrooms in the White House.

Like it or not President Obama was elected by a very wide margin with a clear mandate to govern.  And for what it is worth, the GOP while being sharply critical of his plans, has yet to offer ANYTHING in the way of a serious counter proposal.  I believe this comes under the heading of put up or shut up.

February 1, 2:43 am | [comment link]
5. Katherine wrote:

#4, Republicans have offered counter plans, both in the House (voted down), and in the meeting with the President (“I won,” he said, and dismissed their ideas).  I have seen TV anchors on CNBC, not Republican activists so far as I know, remarking that the Limbaugh plan, which ran as an op-ed in the Wall St. Journal, sounds better to them that this “stimulus” bill.  So it’s not accurate to say that counter-proposals are not being made.

The “stimulus” bill is very little stimulus and is instead a massive grab-bag of Democratic spending wish-lists being pushed through under cover of “crisis.”  If Democrats wish to make massive alterations to public life, and they do, it would be more honest to offer them as such, with extensive debate, in the open, rather than using the scare tactics now being used.

February 1, 3:10 am | [comment link]
6. Juandeveras wrote:

Right on, Katherine. So far, there is an amount agreed to equal $37 billion that genuinely falls under the rubric of a “stimulus” package. All Republican House members ( and 11 Democrats ) decided not to go along with the Messiah of Pork on his first vote;  Obama also tackily and publicly said not to listen to Limbaugh - huge mistake. Limbaugh will teach Obama some street fighting techniques he never knew as a Chicago “street thug”. The gloves are off all around. Obama just galvanized his opposition. The selection of a Republican governor for Commerce Sec. is a ruse - that governor will no longer be able to select a replacement senator from his state, giving Obama the 60 Senate votes he wants. The same glassy-eyed Obama supporters are also the glassy-eyed Bush-haters: sounds like the Scientologists to me in their cult-like behavior. Pretty soon the most glassy-eyed of the bunch will be Obama.

February 1, 4:49 am | [comment link]
7. Br. Michael wrote:

I don’t know why President is so opposed to tax cuts.  Two of his cabinet appointments seem to like them:

blockquote] WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama sought to rally support for his emerging economic rescue package on Saturday, as he stood by his latest cabinet nominee to run into tax problems that could impede confirmation.
But even as he moved to confront the economic crisis, Obama was facing a new political distraction—the disclosure that Tom Daschle, picked to spearhead U.S. health care reform, failed to pay more than $128,000 in taxes.

February 1, 8:58 am | [comment link]
8. D. C. Toedt wrote:

I was a Limbaugh fan. I’m also a lifelong Republican, and troubled by how little of the stimulus package seems to be devoted to actual stimulus, as opposed to Democratic pet causes. But since the election, Limbaugh seems to have devolved into rabble-rousing, possibly in an attempt to increase his audience and fend off leadership challenges from the likes of Sean Hannity.

The other day in the car, I heard Limbaugh playing two clips of Obama speeches.  In the first clip, Obama said that only government could break the cycle that has led us to the situation we’re in. In the second clip, Obama told a group of business leaders that American business is what creates the jobs on which Americans’ hopes and dreams are built. 

Here’s the disconcerting part:  Limbaugh seized on these two clips as an excuse for a rant that Obama wasn’t telling the truth, that it was not possible for him to believe both of these things at once. But that’s nonsense, a classic example of the fallacy of the false dilemma. Limbaugh is certainly smart enough to realize this.

(I’m paraphrasing all of the above quotes from fallible memory).

February 1, 9:05 am | [comment link]
9. Br. Michael wrote:

Then there is this:

WASHINGTON – Former presidential rival John McCain expressed disappointment that President Barack Obama has not negotiated with Republicans over a huge economic stimulus plan and said he is working on an alternative package.

Now the Democrats have the raw muscle to pass anything that they want, yet they still want to blame the Republicans for everything.

February 1, 9:15 am | [comment link]
10. Br. Michael wrote:

Left out the citation:

February 1, 9:15 am | [comment link]
11. BMR+ wrote:

It is I think helpful to read this entry from Tony’s blog in the context of the entry that follows it:


Bruce Robison

February 1, 9:35 am | [comment link]
12. libraryjim wrote:

It should also be noted that soon after the elections, Nancy Pelosi, in a spirit of bi-partisanship, put into place new rules that prohibited Republicans from offering amendments to bills in the house, or proposing alternate bills to ones already proposed.  It should also be noted that President Obama never came out in opposition to these rules.

February 1, 11:25 am | [comment link]
13. Oldman wrote:

President Obama’s stimulus plans remind me too much of FDR’s plans during the great depression of the 30’s and 40’s.  They never worked and it took WWII to bring the country out of the depression. 
See Matthew 15.

February 1, 12:52 pm | [comment link]
14. Katherine wrote:

D.C., I’m not sure that I agree with your assessment of those Obama audio clips on Limbaugh.  Rush believes that government created the mess we’re in.  I’m not sure that the government is 100% responsible, but it does bear a large portion of the blame.  If “government solving the problem” refers to something like this spending bonanza, then I agree with Rush.  It will only make the business climate worse.

I can’t see Hannity overtaking Rush anyhow.  I listen to Rush when I’m home, but not Hannity.  Too shrill and too little independent thinking for my taste.  Maybe that’s just me.

February 1, 12:54 pm | [comment link]
15. Juandeveras wrote:

D.C. - First, I personally object to the insipid use of the word “rant”  when attempting to minimize another’s comments. I’ve listened to Rush since the mid-80’s and “rant” is not a word that comes to mind when describing something he feels passionate about. He is politically more knowledgable than most in Washington and has the temerity to speak his mind articulately and clearly. He has given one interview since the election - to Hannity. He has been misquoted on multiple occasions about this interview - suggesting he wants Obama to fail - he was taken way out of context - he stated that if Obama pursued socialist causes, the he would wish him to fail. As to the “fallacy of the false dilemma” you reference - it is quite apparent that Obama has a pattern of behavior whereby he is constantly attempting to cover all bets - witness his vote of “present” at least 133 times while in the Illiinois senate -neither “yes” nor “no” 133 times - he’s no different in the situation which you noted.

February 1, 2:18 pm | [comment link]
16. Dave B wrote:

John, President Obama has ahd over a year to develope a plan for Gitmo.  He ran on that as one of his “changes”.  The military has no controll over civilian penal institutions so ow do they coordinate with them to develope a cntigincy plan?  You would think President Obama would have some idea how to close Gitmo instead of issuing an order that needs tremendous planning.  Hoping European nations will take some etc is wishful thinking.  I find much of Obama’s program wishful thinking.

February 1, 2:38 pm | [comment link]
17. jkc1945 wrote:

Look, we elected President Obama, but not because the majority of us really understood the multi-hundreds of promises that he made during his campaign.  We elected him because he was not Bush, nor of his party.  Obama is relatively clueless.  We don’t need to wait to make that judgment;  if we had been listening during the campaign YEARs, we would have known it a year ago.  Problem was, and is - - the Republicans didn’g put up a candidate worth looking at.  But we are headed for a series of falls within our country that will make our current situation look like a summer Sunday School picnic, unless somehow we can get Mr. obama and the leftist congress to understand what they have, so far, obviously failed to get - - that government is the problem, not to solution to our problems.  There is a hefty lunch bill that has come due - - but the only people to pay it are the same ones who used the card to buy lunches for the past decades - - us.  Government needs to get out of the way and let failure occur, if indeed it does.  After the fall, will come the recovery, and it will be real, not engineered.

February 1, 3:09 pm | [comment link]
18. Juandeveras wrote:

Dave - Obama is throwing a bone to the left. He will not close Gitmo. The brilliant former Marine reserve colonel,  John Murtha, who took 37 years to make that rank, suggests his constituents can easily handle the Gitmo detainees in his neck of the woods ( after he funds a new jail, of course ).

February 1, 3:22 pm | [comment link]
19. Todd Granger wrote:

Karen B. (#1), you also apparently missed the T-shirts that had Mr Obama’s name under the Agnus Dei insignium (the lamb with a triumphant banner in its crooked leg).  The thing that I find most disturbing is the combination of an utter sense of “historylessness” (do the people wearing those T-shirts actually understand the redolence of those words and images, or is just some vague cultural mythology at work here?) with a belief in political leaders’ promises that verges on magical thinking.

For a discussion of this tendency among today’s young adults, you might want to read a series of three essays written by Professor Tom Bertonneau as he struggles “to understand students who exist in the fog of a post-literate world”:

The introduction to the essay (the last of three parts) includes hypertext links to the two earlier essays.

February 1, 3:36 pm | [comment link]
20. centexn wrote:

If anyone would like a penetrating analysis of this continuing debacle from its roots, I invite you to drop in on this link:
Should you take the time to read through and carefully evalutate the multiplicity of net citations as well as articles by the blog author, it will change your entire perspective.  She is by no means an extremeist.  NB: Her curriculum vitae.  Its an incredible job of putting the pieces of this puzzle together.

February 1, 5:21 pm | [comment link]
21. Br. Michael wrote:

Which article?

February 1, 6:28 pm | [comment link]
22. libraryjim wrote:

Just for the record, Rush Limbaugh was merciless in criticizing the Republicans for acting and spending like Democrats. He was merciless in castigating John McCain for siding with the Democrats in bills that would have been bad for America (Immigration ‘reform’).

He speaks his mind based on his (and his staff’s) research, and conservative principles. Go Rush!

February 1, 9:12 pm | [comment link]
23. centexn wrote:

The entire corpus will be an education.  My invitation was a little lacking in info.  She addresses the evolution of the culture of corruption which continues to plague us.  There may be an article or two which relate to this specific topic however I cannot cite one.

February 2, 8:01 am | [comment link]
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