Well, it's a new era in Washington. A little bit, at least. The administration just finished their first event for bloggers and progressive media, a conference call with, appropriately enough, Jared Bernstein, one of the more liberal leaning members of the president's economic team. He's the top economic policy adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and he spoke for about 45 minutes with the likes of MYDD.com and yours truly.
A veteran of think tanks and a trained TV pundit, Bernstein, who has written for TPM, seemed a bit cautious and not at all eager to make news. The highlights were that he praised the stimulus package while noting that it doesn't have everything the administration and others would have liked. He noted, too, that just because something was excised from the stimulus package that in now way means the administration won't come back and try it again at a later point. He wouldn't get into specifics on what they might come back to but it's in keeping with a larger point I've tried to make (but that he refrained from explicitly making): This probably isn't the last stimulus.
I asked him how much good the bill could really do while the bank bailout plan remains so sketchy. Bernstein used a medical analogy saying that the stimulus plan was designed to
"get the patient's heart beating again" while the bank stabilization plan was about getting the patient's arteries cleaned out.
Another interesting point he made was that the stimulus package could probably shave a couple of points off of the unemployment rate but with the rate heading towards double digits you might well find the rate at 7.5 percent or so by the end of 2010. It's a sobering thought. We'll be coming out of this thing when the unemployment rate is what it is now. In other words, the roller coaster still has farther to go down.
But the biggest headline was probably the meeting itself. Jesse Lee, the online director at Casa Blanca, introduced Bernstein on the call and said he hoped that the progressive media call would be "the first in a newly sustained tradition." Let's hope.