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Is The President Learning On The Job?

Tomorrow President Obama will stand before Congress and put forward a jobs plan. A real jobs plan? One that will work? One that learns from past mistakes? David Wessell, the WSJ‘s economics editor, thinks so:

The package, fashioned over the past couple of weeks, draws from two lessons the president has learned in the past couple of years.

Lesson one: The original Obama stimulus, while it prevented another Great Depression, was poorly marketed. The components were more popular than the whole. (Indeed, the latest WSJ/NBC News poll finds only 23% of respondents think Mr. Obama’s economic policy helped the economy.)

So the president’s new and improved plan is likely to consist of a set of what he hopes will be seen as moderate, common-sense assists to the economy. These could amount to a significant stimulus of between $300 billion and $400 billion over the coming year, which is more than 2% of gross domestic product. But he won’t use the word.

Republican leaders are also learning: while they will almost certainly disagree with the bulk of President Obama’s ideas, they understand the necessity of acting immediately to reinvigorate the economy.

House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, in a letter to the president Tuesday, said, “While it is important that we continue to debate and discuss our different approaches to job creation, it is also critical that our differences not preclude us from taking action in areas where there is common agreement.”

A new economic plan from a president apparently willing to concede that ‘mistakes were made’, signs of cooperation in partisan Washington, and most importantly, the prospect of continued economic downturn focusing the minds of both parties on the need to get something done: could the force of angry public opinion across the country actually be forcing our elected representatives to do something constructive?

We’ll see.

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  • Kris

    “A president apparently willing to concede that ‘mistakes were made’”

    The mistake being that the electorate is too stupid to understand how wonderful his original stimulus was. The correction is to avoid use of the word “stimulus” this time, hoping that the electorate will be too stupid to recognize a stimulus by another name.

    Color me unimpressed.

  • vanderleun

    Actually, it will be more interesting to see if the latest blandishments from our “non-partisan” president will sucker the Republicans yet again. The smart money says it will since the Republican’s roll is to be rolled.

  • Corlyss

    Personally, I don’t the man is capable of admitting even the tiniest fact into his massive brain if it conflicts with anything he learned reading Saul Alinsky. He doesn’t listen to allies who know more than he does, never mind critics who know more than he does. He’s winnowed his advisors down to FLOTUS and Valery Jarrett, and I wouldn’t bet which one has more influence with him. They tell him what he wants to hear. Of national leaders, he’s the most feckless and tone-deaf in many, many years.

  • Corlyss

    Oh, and while I’m up, I’d like to ask those geniuses in the White House this:

    If a trillion dollar stimulus was practically a complete flop, how’s one 1/3 its size going to get the job done?

  • Jim.

    So what the President is learning is about form, not substance? What happened to all those posts about how “Nature cannot be fooled”?

    A couple percent of GDP won’t help prime the pump. To get American consumer debt back down to bullish levels, you need expenditures of about 200% of GDP. Which we can never afford to pay back, period, don’t even think about it.

  • Toni

    Oh please. Obama has no clue what powers the economy. He wants to be seen to be Doing Something and has neither interest in nor intention to compromise with Republicans on measures that really would stimulate the economy. Like paring back regulatory overreach and stop trying to blame malefactors of great wealth.

    What in these proposals will create jobs? They’re sops to unions in strict keeping with the Blue Social Model. Payments to enable California, Rhode Island and their profligate cousins will enable them to stave off reality a little longer and meanwhile keep government unions happy.

    “Infrastructure spending” will have no more impact on jobs in the near term than megabillions for “shovel-ready jobs” did in 2009. And as in 2009, the stimulus will mandate union-level wages for “infrastructure” work. Same old same old.

    If David Wessel thinks this will work, bully for him. The real problem is consumer pessimism, which feeds business pessimism, when businesses are already in a crouch, defending against the NLRB, the EPA, financial regulation, Obamacare, etc.

    Obama’s speech won’t make a bit a difference. People have tuned him out, as his disapproval ratings show. The speech is also a continuation of failed tactics, namely his and his advisors’ overconfidence in his oratorical abilities.

    Remember the summer of 2009, when Obama was badmouthing the US Chamber of Commerce, Fox News, insurance companies, etc. etc. in his effort to force Obamacare through Congress? I don’t know exactly what he and his advisors thought — that creating villains would get voters to pressure their Senators and Representatives? that scaring the dickens out of Obamacare opponents and those who dared report the opposition would smoothe its path?

    All I know is that from Day One, Obama and everyone around him has had utter faith in his ability to conjure reality with his words. Well, there’s no conjuring prosperity, even with a speech before both houses of Congress, and certainly not with more hundreds of millions channeled to his union supporters.

    The only sure prospect is that Obama will never lose his false faith that another speech will cause oceans of negative opinion, among voters and employers, to recede.

  • Toni

    This just in from WSJ: “Economic Plans Unlikely to Deliver a Fix” — meaning Obama’s and Bernanke’s plans.

    “So the U.S. economy, jerked in these different directions, is most likely to be left, slightly shaken, in its current, anemic form: expanding, that is, at roughly a 2% pace, with an elevated risk of recession, while households continue to repair debt-laden balance sheets.

    “As the global economy slows and the corporate profit boom ends, the risk is to the downside of that forecast.

    “…Markets are saying the economy faces a new, grimmer reality.

    “The sooner policy makers accept this and adapt to it, the better.”

  • Toni

    Also from today’s WSJ, “The Obama Presidency by the Numbers,” by a Stanford economist and former chair of the White House Council Economic Advisors:

    “The president still has time to rebound from his economic policy missteps by promoting permanent, predictable policies to strengthen forecasted anemic growth. But do Mr. Obama and his advisers realize their analysis of the economic crisis was flawed and their attempted solutions mostly misconceived? That vast spending, temporary tax rebates and social engineering did little of lasting value at immense cost? That the prospect of ever more regulation and taxation created widespread uncertainty and severely damaged incentives and confidence? That the repeated attempts to prevent markets (e.g., the housing market) from naturally bottoming and rebounding have created confusion and inhibited recovery?

    “Can Mr. Obama change course, given the evidence that the economy responded poorly to top-down direction from Washington rather than the bottom-up individual initiative that is the key to strong growth?…”

  • Gene

    Expectations for the speech are low and I don’t expect any radical ideas to come out of it. But if O wants to make a splash and perhaps even put himself in a new light for at least some voters, the boldest thing he could do would be to start the speech with a heartfelt apology to the nation for HIS mistakes, HIS inattention to detail in the earlier stimulus, etc., etc. No mitigation, no excuses, no blaming of anyone but himself. Keep it short and sincere and then move on to explain how he’s going to do things better.

    I think such a move would do him more good than any policy idea he is likely to propose in that speech.

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