Jonathan Capehart flags an important interview with economist Mark Zandi, who explains why you should conclude that the stimulus actually worked:
MARK ZANDI: In a normal time, I don’t think economic policy makes a large difference one way or another. But in times of crisis it makes all the difference in the world. And so I do think the policy response during the financial panic and during the Great Recession is very important to explaining why the recession ended as quickly as it did and why the recovery is gaining traction.
LUKE RUSSERT: So, the stimulus worked a little bit, you think, here?
ZANDI: I think it was a success, yes. It ended the recession. It jump-started the recovery. It’s not a source of long-term economic growth. It was never intended to be. But it did what it was supposed to do.
This underscores yet again why one of the most important tasks facing the Obama team is to recommunicate to the public just how awful the economic crisis he inherited really was. Putting aside the debate over whether the stimulus was too small to plug the hole in the economy, it’s simply impossible to accurately assess the success the stimulus did have without an appreciation of the fact that it was designed to pull the country out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
If Americans factor this into their assessment of Obama’s presidency and the success or failure of his policies, he’s more likely to be reelected. If they don’t, he’s more likely to lose. Presuming the recovery will continue to accelerate, the debate will turn heavily on whether the public gives Obama credit for it — or whether they buy the Romney argument that the economy is improving in spite of his policies, and not because of them. If swing voters take the long view of his presidency, they are more likely to adopt the former view. But continued economic suffering could make swing voters less inclined to award Obama credit for the recovery. That dynamic will only be exacerbated if voters don’t factor in the depth and severity of the mess he inherited.
By the way, this sort of pronouncement is why Zandi has become a sort of George Soros of the economic debate: Whenever Zandi praises the stimulus, right-leaning commentators dismiss it: “Oh, that’s Zandi.” Shouting “Zandi,” like yelling “Soros,” is now a conversation-stopper. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t right.