A few minutes ago I left the office to grab a cup of coffee. And on the way out the door I spent a few moments in the Fox News alternative universe.
The topic was budget deficits and the stimulus plan; and the anchor was Stuart Varney, a one-time financial news reporter for CNN. Varney was berating some hapless guest about how the Stimulus had “failed” because the jobless rate is higher now than it was when the bill passed. And thus the money should never even have been spent.Now, we’re no strangers to hearing that the stimulus ‘failed’. But that’s usually from Republican politicians. And from them it’s more understandable. First, because an opposition party has no percentage doing anything but saying the in-party’s policies have failed. And even though no one thought that unemployment wouldn’t keep going up, the current 10% unemployment rate is just too big a political target not to hit. Second, because Republican politicians simply have a more developed group propensity for lying.
But Varney is at least supposed to be a financial reporter, not a politician or GOP spin-meister. And it is astonishing to think that there are people who actually think — or more likely in this case pretend on TV — that we’d be in better shape today if we did nothing to create off-setting demand in the economy or better yet, cut spending across the board to force our way into a Great Depression.
This isn’t to say that the stimulus was perfect. It probably should have been larger, something I suspect even the people at the White House would concede. And it certainly could have been structured differently. But the idea that it’s a failure because unemployment didn’t stop rising as soon as the bill past or even long after is just crazy.
There’s no getting around the irony that President Obama’s approval numbers are now weighed down by a combination of a) the profound discontent at the economic condition of the country which was already pretty much foreordained when he came into office in the midst of a historic economic crisis and b) dissatisfaction with his policy responses which have only blunted rather than prevented or fixed the financial carnage.
Life’s hard and he asked for the job. But it’s scary to think how many people either don’t get or are paid to pretend not to get that we probably avoided a financial collapse of vastly greater proportions than the protracted recession we’re now in.