President Obama and his economic team promised that if the stimulus passed, unemployment would not go above 8 percent and we would now be at 6 percent.
When that didn’t happen, the administration claimed, “Oh, we didn’t know at the time how bad things were.”
We already knew that was untrue. Huffington Post reported in December:
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney made a surprising assertion on MSNBC . . . saying that in early 2009, as Barack Obama was taking office, there weren’t any major economists who understood just how bad the recession was.
The problem is that the evidence doesn’t support his claim. . . .
In reality, though, well-respected analysts and economists from all corners were sounding alarms about the state of the economy — in early 2009, and even before.
Numerous experts warned that the stimulus bill wouldn’t go far enough to address the nation’s economic woes as it was making its way through Congress in the early days of Obama’s presidency. They cautioned that the economy was pointed toward higher unemployment and weak or nonexistent growth — conditions that have indeed come to characterize Obama’s first term in office.
But we now have definitive proof that this excuse is false. And it comes straight from the mouths of Obama advisers in his campaign spin-umentary, “The Road We’ve Traveled.” The New York Times provides a helpful summary:
The story narrated by [actor Tom] Hanks starts with elation on election night in 2008 and quickly segues to despair with the beginning of the Great Recession.
David Axelrod, the president’s senior campaign strategist, likens watching the president’s first major economic briefing to a horror movie. “All I was thinking at that moment was: ‘Can we get a recount?’ ” he says.
Adds Mr. Hanks, “Not since the days of Franklin Roosevelt had so much fallen on the shoulders of one president.”
Umm. So I guess they did know what they were facing. The stimulus just didn’t perform as advertised.
You see, Obama can’t have it both ways. He either knew the depth of the problem and his policies were not up to the task of reviving job growth, or he was in the dark and made the right decision based on available facts.
But I think on this one the cat is out of the bag. Of course, Obama knew what a mess we were in after the financial meltdown. Unfortunately for him, he bought into an ineffective Keynesian stimulus approach and he overpromised. The economy is recovering but belatedly and anemically.
Some research supports the argument that the stimulus as structured did nothing much to help or in fact made things worse and that the other policies he pursued (e.g. the Dodd-Frank legislation, Obamacare, restrictions on domestic energy development) impeded economic recovery.
But while economists carry on that debate, as a political matter a large majority of Americans don’t believed the stimulus worked. And Obama’s shifting explanations (it is working, or I didn’t know how bad it was) and the reverential documentary will not, I suspect, convince anyone other than already die-hard supporters. And, if we do want to “credit” government action, then doesn’t the credit go to President George W. Bush, who pushed through the Troubled Assets Relief Program and the initial auto bailout? Just saying.