The Collective
Thursday, February 5, 2024
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Somewhat along the lines of what I was getting at yesterday is this piece from the Politico: Obama losing the stimulus message war.

Now, to answer my own question from the post’s title: some of both. On the one hand, it does seem as if the administration is having a hard time with a clear message in regards to the stimulus package. On the other, part of the problem is that we are dealing here with the legislative process, which is cumbersome and slow (even in times of panic such as we in at the moment), and one would think at some point the press would figure that out. Indeed, in terms of process at the moment, the ball is decidedly in the Congress’ court, not the President’s.

Still, given the build-up to this point, both rhetorically and in terms of actual policy needs, the last couple of weeks have been unimpressive, if not a bit puzzling. It is not, by the way, that I actually expected the powers-that-are in Washington at the moment to generate a brilliant solution to our current economic woes, but I did expect them to be at least trying to approach the situation with some attempts at creativity, both in terms of policy and in terms of rhetoric. Instead, the stimulus approach to date appears (and I use that word deliberately) to be shaping up as nothing more than a Christmas list of spending projects, which may ultimately have stimulative effects, and clearly will help cash-strapped states (not an insignificant issue), but this is all hardly the stuff of averting Great Depression II.

Of course a lot of this is, as Megan McArdle notes, a manifestation of the fact that campaign promises are easy and “Governing is hard.”


Still, going back to the Secretary Paulson-led panic last year, the approach to our economic problems seems to have been, and continues to be, cries that we are all about to die the economy is going to be worse than it was during the Great Depression if we don’t do something. In this formulation to date, “do something” seems to mean “have Congress appropriate a lot of money” whether it be the TARP funds or various projects in the currently pending stimulus package. It all has the feel of a combination of people running around with their hair afire alongside politicians getting to spend money on the things that they like under the guise of rescuing the economy.

Not exactly the stuff of legend (or confidence generation).

Back to the Politico piece: I think that it is less that the administration is losing control of its message as it is that there hasn’t been much of a message beyond the notion that a) the economy is bad (really bad), and that something needs to be done, and that something is fiscal stimulus via Congressional action. The rest has been rather murky.

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