Getting ‘out there’ isn’t enough

GETTING ‘OUT THERE’ ISN’T ENOUGH…. Economic growth in the second quarter (April through June) was initially estimated to be pretty weak. This morning, the figure was revised downward — from 2.4% to 1.6%. It’s not only evidence of anemic growth, it points to a trend moving in the wrong direction, after two stronger quarters preceding it.

What’s more, it’s discouraging news that comes on top of other discouraging news. Just over the last couple of weeks, the reports on home sales were awful, and recovery in the manufacturing sector is also stalling.

On Wednesday, President Obama organized a conference call with his top economic advisers, reportedly considering “the next steps to keep the economy growing.” But the White House agenda in the short term is not focused specifically on the economy — on Sunday, Obama will be in New Orleans for the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and on Tuesday, the president will deliver an Oval Office address on the war in Iraq. Later in the week, the focus will be on Middle East peace talks.

A White House official told ABC’s Jake Tapper, “We know he needs to be out there to talk about the economy next week. We haven’t yet figured out the way he’s going to do that.”

I think the sentiment is only partially true. A White House focus on the economy certainly makes sense, and “figuring out” a way to convey that to the public seems wise.

But getting Obama “out there to talk about the economy” isn’t necessarily the answer — that is, unless the president has something new to say. By all accounts, he doesn’t.

The White House is pushing its $30 billion small business lending initiative and other measures to stimulate economic growth, such as the elimination of capital gains taxes for small business investments. But advisers say there is little appetite on Capitol Hill for any new spending programs, and limited time in the congressional calendar, suggesting that they feel there aren’t any more major initiatives the administration will push in further attempts to revise the sputtering economy.

And that, I fear, is the problem.

The president can get “out there to talk about the economy,” and he has a reasonable message to offer — his policies prevented a catastrophe, created millions of jobs, and made economic growth possible. Had Republicans been in charge at the moment of crisis last year, the evidence is incontrovertible that we’d be in a much worse place.

But the message is also underwhelming. Obama is right, as a factual matter, to tout his economic successes, but in terms of real-world implications, it’s wholly unpersuasive to struggling, anxiety-ridden Americans.

I don’t want to see the president “out there to talk about the economy”; I want him out there with an ambitious agenda to improve the economy. He won’t do that, however, because Republicans won’t allow a vote on additional recovery efforts, and panicky Dems thinks voters will punish them for trying to do what works.

I guess that leaves the Fed?