Obama’s stimulus spending didn’t trickle down far enough, or fast enough. Obama has basically admitted he overpromised on the $840 billion stimulus bill that was the first big piece of legislation he signed in 2009. Jobs returned far more slowly than Obama and many economists predicted, and when they did, many paid less than the jobs lost during the 2007-09 recession. There was — and is — no silver-bullet solution to economic problems that formed long before Obama took office, and would have bedeviled any president, Republican or Democrat. But Obama clearly thought the 2009 stimulus plan would get the job done, which is why he turned to health care and other matters after it passed. Mission unaccomplished, as another top Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer, admitted late last year.
Obama’s other priorities don’t help the middle class today. Obama may well establish a lasting legacy as the first modern president to make a difference on global warming and other environmental issues. If so, it will help Americans for generations to come. But it doesn’t put money in anybody’s pocket today, and Americans consistently say environmental concerns are less important than jobs and economic issues.
Other Obama priorities, such as more muscular consumer protection, federal support for high-tech manufacturing and the Dodd-Frank financial reforms, may ultimately help the middle class too, but for now these initiatives are essentially invisible to ordinary Americans. If they truly work, the best evidence may be an absence of problems down the road, something that’s mighty tough to claim credit for.