Obama counsels patience

OBAMA COUNSELS PATIENCE…. Congressional Republicans want Americans to believe the economic catastrophe that President Obama inherited — caused, in large part, by Republican economic policies — should be resolved by now.

Bush, Cheney, and their congressional allies had eight years to get us into this mess. But if Obama’s policies haven’t produced growth and prosperity after not quite half a year, then those who failed spectacularly nevertheless feel comfortable declaring the president’s entire approach a failure.

We’re starting to see the White House push more assertively in the other direction. In his multimedia address yesterday, the president questioned the credibility of his GOP detractors who obviously don’t know what they’re talking about — remember, they proposed addressing the crisis with a five-year spending freeze and more tax cuts — while making the case that his recovery plan “was not designed to work in four months — it was designed to work over two years.”

To that end, Obama also has an 800-word op-ed in the WaPo today, mostly about his vision for a new economic foundation, but also offering a defense for his administration’s efforts.

Nearly six months ago, my administration took office amid the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression. At the time, we were losing, on average, 700,000 jobs a month. And many feared that our financial system was on the verge of collapse.
The swift and aggressive action we took in those first few months has helped pull our financial system and our economy back from the brink. We took steps to restart lending to families and businesses, stabilize our major financial institutions, and help homeowners stay in their homes and pay their mortgages. We also passed the most sweeping economic recovery plan in our nation’s history.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was not expected to restore the economy to full health on its own but to provide the boost necessary to stop the free fall. So far, it has done that. It was, from the start, a two-year program, and it will steadily save and create jobs as it ramps up over this summer and fall. We must let it work the way it’s supposed to, with the understanding that in any recession, unemployment tends to recover more slowly than other measures of economic activity.

There are obvious difficulties built into the defense. Telling people “things would be a whole lot worse” may be true, but it’s largely unsatisfying when those some people only recognize the ongoing hardship, not the hypothetical pain they may be avoiding.

Nevertheless, the White House seems well aware of the landscape, and is reportedly intent on helping “regain control of the debate.”

In an interview, Mr. Emanuel criticized Republicans for assailing the stimulus package and said voters understood the depth of the problem and how much time it would take to turn around.

“I think the public knows three things: We inherited a total mess; we’re working hard on it; and we’re not going to get out of it overnight,” he said. “Here’s the deal: The key to what this year is about is rescuing the economy from falling off the cliff and trying to put in place the building blocks of recovery.”

Still, Mr. Obama’s aides acknowledged that they had only limited time, and that lawmakers might have less patience than voters.

What’s striking is that those complaining the loudest are also those who are the most strikingly wrong. It’s not entirely fair to say congressional Republicans aren’t offering an alternative. Rather, the problem is that their alternative — stop trying to stimulate the economy, stop trying to reform health care, start cutting taxes, and start freezing spending — is demonstrably ridiculous.

Even for petrified Democrats, the options seem limited to a) heeding the president’s advice, being patient, and taking additional steps to provide a foundation for long-term growth; b) further stimulating the economy with a new recovery package; or c) listening to insane Republican ideas that don’t make any sense.

I get that the nervous Democratic nellies on the Hill are afraid that the light at the end of the tunnel might be a train. But what, exactly, are they prepared to do.