President Obama tied his own hands on job creation




Brian Beutler on President Obama’s upcoming “jobs” speech to the nation, and the difficult of pivoting to job creation when the nation is now so fixated on deficit reduction:

To put things in starker relief, no less than his presidency and the economic fate of millions of Americans is at stake.

That’s a tall order — but it is, in part, one of Obama’s own making.

In early 2009, Obama turned from stimulus to health care, and by insisting the reforms reduce deficits he locked his most effective recovery tools in a policy shed and handed the key to his political enemies. They were famously unpersuaded by the gesture, and instead (falsely) portrayed the bill as a budget buster — an early salvo in a campaign to blame Obama and Democrats for soaring deficits, which of course were almost entirely attributable to the Bush-era financial crisis and recession.

By late October 2009, according to Gallup, 14 percent of the public thought the President’s top priority should be the deficit, double what it had been at the end of Bush’s term. The same poll found 41 percent of the country thought the economy should be his top priority — down from 64 percent in 2008, before the stimulus had helped end the country’s employment free fall. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and health care also bested the deficit. Other polls showed similar figures, though many asked questions in different ways, and still others asked respondents to name their top economic priorities. Jobs always trounced the deficit, but public concern was starting to bud. Prior to about 2009, the deficit wasn’t even listed as an option on similar polls.

In his 2010 State of the Union, Obama announced a discretionary spending freeze. “[F]amilies across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions,” he announced. “The federal government should do the same.”

In the year and a half since, “stimulus” has fallen into political disrepute, jobs have remained a high priority for the country, and anti-deficit mania has climbed.

Brian is absolutely right.  I believe it was around the time of the one year anniversary of the stimulus that the President started pivoting to deficit reduction, when the economy was still not (obviously) out of the woods yet. Now he’s trying to pivot back to jobs? Uh, no. Unless we’re going to create those jobs with magic pixie dust, it takes money – money that can’t be there if we’re focused on cutting spending.

The really annoying thing is that this is the kind of thing lots of us noted at the time. Hell, I remember during our infamous blogger meeting with Jared Bernstein, around the one year anniversary of the stimulus, that Berstein talked about the political and fiscal constraints surrounding doing more stimulus. I told him that they were the same constraint, because the president had pivoted to deficit reduction, and refused to adequately defend the stimulus, so now everyone was focused on how much money we “wasted” in the stimulus and how the number one priority was now to cut spending.

Let me quote at length from my post of February 17, 2010:

I guess what struck me as most interesting about the meeting were two things. First, when Bernstein noted that, in trying to solve the country’s economic problems, the administration faces “budget constraints and political constraints.” By that, I took Bernstein to mean that the stimulus could only be so large last time, and we can only spend so much more money this time, because we’re facing a huge deficit, so there’s not much money to spend, and because the Hill and public opinion won’t let us spend more.

That struck me as GOP talking points winning the day, and I said so (Professor Kyle wrote about this very notion the other day on the blog). The only reason we’re facing a budget constraint is because we gave in on the political constraint. We permitted Republicans to spin the first stimulus as an abysmal failure, when in fact it created or saved up to 2m jobs. Since Democrats didn’t adequately defend the stimulus, and didn’t sufficiently paint the deficit as the Republicans’ doing, we now are not “politically” permitted to have a larger stimulus because the fiscal constraint has become more important than economic recovery.

And whose fault is that?

Apparently ours.

Bernstein said that the progressive blogs (perhaps he said progressive media in general) haven’t done enough over the past year to tell the positive side of the stimulus.

That was the meeting I was told I was very very mean to Bernstein for having pointed all of this out.  No, “mean” is having to live through 5 to 10 years of economic malaise because people in the White House aren’t smart enough, or backboned enough, to figure out, fight for, and implement the right economic policies from the git-go.

President Obama is the one who decided to embrace deficit cutting mania long before the economy was out of the woods, and he has only himself to blame for why he now has very few, if any, politically palatable options for rescuing us from this economic disaster before he faces a very difficult re-elect next year.

PS And let’s not forget, President Obama has a history of not fighting for his own proposals, and if past is prologue, will likely cave on most of what he claims he wants.  So this jobs proposal, already pretty weak tea, has little to no chance of passing unless the President actually fights for it; and even were he to fight for it (and he won’t), it won’t do much to improve our current situation because it’s too little (and awfully late). Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, great proposal.


CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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