Editor's Note

September/ October 2012 Where Credit Is Due

By Paul Glastris

The truth is, no president could have quickly turned around an economy as badly damaged as this one was in 2009. History shows that recessions caused by financial crisis always take years to heal, and while Obama’s stimulus prevented a depression, it was nowhere near big enough to make up for the loss of demand caused by a 40 percent drop in the average American’s net worth. But as Michael Grunwald explains in his new book, The New New Deal, the administration used the stimulus to make investments and spur change in everything from green energy to medical research to public schools. These and other big moves during Obama’s first term, like the health care and financial reforms laws, have the potential to pay substantial economic dividends in coming years. Obama needs to tell the story of these accomplishments and how transformative they could be.

A message about long-term payoffs might not seem like one today’s hard-pressed voters want to hear. But as James Carville and Stan Greenberg argue in their campaign book, It’s the Middle Class, Stupid, swing voters don’t believe that happy days are just over the horizon. They know that the economy, and their place in it, is in a precarious state that is years in the making and will take years to get out of. If Obama can find a way to talk to them honestly about what he’s already done as president, they might give him a chance to keep doing it.

Paul Glastris is editor in chief of the Washington Monthly.