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July 25, 2013 10:03 AM The Stupidest Thing Anyone Said About Obama’s Economics Speech

By Jonathan Bernstein

Granted, I didn’t watch the president’s speech yesterday. But that’s OK; apparently, Josh Kraushaar hasn’t watched anything else the president did from about March 2009 until today.

Seriously: I think this could be the single stupidest thing I’ve heard anyone try to peddle yet about Barack Obama’s economic record:

Instead of taking up health care reform in the wake of the Great Recession, the president could have spent his time addressing Americans’ economic insecurity by promoting programs for those finding themselves out of work, struggling to find new jobs, and looking to get back on their feet…
Imagine if Obama began his presidency pitching an economic opportunity platform focused on, say, expanding job retraining programs, extending the payroll tax cut, and streamlining the tax code.

My emphasis, because…Oh my God. That’s right: Josh Kraushaar is complaining that Barack Obama ignored the economy from March 2009 until, apparently today — and all would have been well if only he had supported extending the payroll tax cut. Extending the payroll tax cut. Extending the payroll tax cut!!!

(No, he’s not talking about the beginning of the second term; later in that paragraph, he talks about how he had the votes in Congress back then to do whatever he wanted. Which also wasn’t true, by the way, even in 2009-2010).

For the record: the payroll tax cut was passed in 2010 and extended in 2012 through the end of that year. It expired at the end of 2012 — basically, at the end of Obama’s first term. That is, the payroll tax cut was passed and once extended during the period in which Obama was supposedly ignoring the economy; it was only available to extend  at the end of 2012 because it was passed when he supposedly was ignoring the economy.

There’s no hint in Kraushaar’s column about the Jobs Act that Obama proposed in September 2011. Nothing about the economic plan he pushed in fall 2010, either. Nothing about Dodd-Frank. Nothing even about the proposals Obama made in his State of the Union this year, most of which he’s still repeating (and House Republicans are still ignoring). For that matter, nothing about Obama’s deficit-cutting over the last couple of years. Some of that may have been bad policy; much of it never happened because he didn’t have the votes in Congress. But all of it was done in an attempt to get the economy moving.

Not to mention that there’s a very screwy giving-speeches-and-passing-things focus here. What Obama did for the economy in 2009-2010 was mainly implementing the stimulus passed in early 2009. That’s really not ignoring the economy.

By all means, criticize the specific choices Obama and Hill Democrats made. Was the stimulus too small? Too big? Badly constructed, or badly implemented? Was Dodd-Frank the wrong path? Should there have been a different course on housing? Was Bernanke at the Fed a mistake? Did Obama err in pivoting, to the extent he did, to austerity? All of those are fair game. The idea that the administration ignored the economy in after spring 2009, however, just won’t fly.

Oh, and you know what? Ask a hundred economists, and I bet 99 of them say that “streamlining the tax code” is very small potatoes indeed for the economy compared with fixing health care.

I like some of Kraushaar’s stuff, but this has to be the single worst column (not counting partisan talking points) I’ve read in a long time.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

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Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.
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Comments

  • Mark Rubin on July 26, 2013 9:26 AM:

    Oh, and if you can fix the fast-growing 1/6th of the economy (health care), that might be helpful! Call me cynical, but when the ACA gets implemented and works, I expect the opposition to start claiming they really never opposed the concept, they just wanted a chance to make it better. (Same with global warming, etc.)