Perhaps Barack Obama should have waited a day or so to hold a post-midterm press conference, or at least a few more hours to prepare for one. The press actually played for keeps after watching the historic rebuke delivered by voters the previous day; no one asked what Obama found the most enchanting about the experience. Anyone could have predicted that at least one reporter would ask whether Obama considered the results a rejection of his economic policies — polling showed the economy and jobs at the top of the list of issues for midterm voters — and presumably the White House prepared for it.
Q: Would you still resist the notion that voters rejected the policy choices you made?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Savannah, I think that what I think is absolutely true is voters are not satisfied with the outcomes. If right now we had 5 percent unemployment instead of 9.6 percent unemployment, then people would have more confidence in those policy choices.
Er, what? If his policies had worked — in other words, actually created the environment for economic growth and job creation — then yes, people would have confidence in them. Therefore, why don’t people have confidence in these policies? Because they haven’t worked, QED. Obama didn’t have an answer; the best he can offer is a platitude of such obvious circularity that only the media seemed to buy it.
But are people being unfair? Let’s recall the original economic projection from the Obama White House on unemployment and economic stimulus, promulgated by Christine Romer and her team in January 2009. With a $775 billion stimulus structured mainly in public works and some tax breaks, the Obama administration estimated that joblessness would peak in 2009 Q3 at 8%. Without Porkulus, it would peak at 9% and plateau through 2010 Q3. What actually happened?
Now economists predict only a 2.4% GDP growth rate in 2011, meaning we’ll be above 9% unemployment until at least 2012 Q1, when Obama predicted we’d be below 7% as a worst-case scenario. And he wonders why people don’t have confidence in his policies?
Actually, scratch that. The media wonders. Obama shows that he understands it exactly.
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Illustrations by Chris Muir of Day by Day. Be sure to read the adventures of Sam, Zed, Damon, and Jan every day!