If you didn't read the newspaper carefully (or for us Web citizens, Google News), you'd swear Barack Obama's economic decisions to date have been disastrous. You'd also be largely wrong, because much of what the guy's done to help stabilize the economy has been spot-on. No, it hasn't quite resulted in the job creation we expected, but it has certainly prevented things from getting as bad as they could be.
Just for the record, here are the fruits of some of his legislative successes to date.
The TARP Bailout funds -- both Bush and Obama passed their own versions -- which were universally panned as a waste of gubb'ment money, have largely been repaid to date. While over $700 billion was originally allocated to this initiative, less than half of that money was actually even dispersed, and all but $50 billion of it has since been repaid. By the time all of this money is returned, the government will likely have turned a small profit since this money was lent with interest. (Bet you didn't know that, huh?) Most economists agree that this effort was needed to prevent a total collapse of the U.S. financial sector, upon which most of our capital sources and pension funds are highly dependent.
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The equally reviled Stimulus Package is being administered as scheduled and coming in under budget, according to a recent story in the Washington Post. The package also has had "strikingly few claims of fraud or abuse" (The Washington Post), which is quite amazing when you consider just how much and how quickly money went out the door. Additionally, it delivered the jobs promised, as "The CBO has forecast that the package may be on track to meet the administration's goal of preserving 3.5 million jobs by the end of the year" (The Washington Post). Nearly one third of the package was comprised of tax cuts for families and small businesses, and another one third was for unemployment benefits and payments to states to stave off the effects of the recession. While you could argue that the president's initial claims that the stimulus package could hold unemployment at under 8% were wrong, most economists agree that we'd be pushing a 12% unemployment rate had nothing been done. Again, a win.
Finally, the bailout of auto manufacturers by the Obama administration was derided as "socialism" and dubbed "Government Motors," a particularly lame pejorative for even the GOP. But two thirds of that money has since been repaid, and neither GM nor Chrysler is anywhere near extinction anymore. This of course would have had a job-destroying ripple effect on the many other companies which feed on the auto industry, and jeopardized the pensions of countless former auto workers.
The sad thing is that most Americans think the decision to spend money on these initiatives (and "ObamaCare, which might I note, is allegedly "deficit neutral") was a waste of valuable resources when nearly every tangible economic indicator proves the opposite. Why?
Because the Obama Administration's lousy messaging and public relations arm completely underestimated the power of misinformation from the other side of the political aisle, and failed to properly hype their successes. The fact that no democratic candidate can even mutter the words "TARP," "bailout," or "healthcare reform" right now without seeing their polling numbers negatively effected is proof enough.
I've said it a million times already, and will say it again. If the Dems lose the House and/or Senate this Fall, Obama's 2012 re-election prospects will be dim. While GOP obstruction and misinformation has definitely played a part in painting Obama's decisions as ineffective, his inability to "sell" what he's done to the American people is just as much of a factor.
Why isn't the Obama Administration competent enough to communicate these relative successes to the American people?
How has the misconception of these economic initiatives fueled the anti-incumbent backlash seen in polls thus far?
Were you aware of the positive impact of each of these initiatives on the overall economy?
Jay Anderson is a freelance writer from Washington, DC. His work has been featured in the Washington Post and on NPR. When he's not busy talking smack here, he runs the award-winning blog AverageBro.com. Follow him via Twitter @AverageBro.