“Obama really was more focused on long-term, historically significant accomplishments than marginal, near-term differences in the pace of the recovery,” Scheiber wrote this year. “On some level, Obama was prepared to accept (and I’m making up these numbers for argument’s sake) three years of painfully high unemployment with health care reform rather than 30 months of painfully high unemployment without it. And the reason is the one Summers alluded to (before disputing): Health care was simply more historically important than avoiding those extra six months of pain.”
For millions of Americans, however, that pain is still going on. Even if the national conversation has moved on to other issues, unemployment is still 7.7 percent, and it is only that low because many Americans have given up looking for a job. In November, the federal government’s measure of those unemployed who are looking for work, plus those who want to work but have lost hope, was 14.4 percent.
But Obamacare is a reality. And the newly re-elected Obama still has that “strain of messianism.” In the second term, legalizing millions of illegal immigrants will be a “more historically important” accomplishment for Obama than the prosaic task of improving economic conditions for suffering Americans. So that’s what he’s going to do.