Commentary Magazine


When Do We Find Out?

The Wall Street Journal notes:

The stock market selloff that greeted Mr. Obama’s election this week is another sign of these gloomy realities. On Wednesday and Thursday combined, the Dow fell 9.7% before rallying some on Friday. Hedge funds are still deleveraging, as investors seek redemptions in order to return to cash, forcing the funds to sell stocks to meet those redemptions. Cash is king when no one can see the bottom.

However, at Friday’s presser we didn’t find out much — who would be Treasury Secretary or whether he was really committed to raising taxes, for example. His first press conference was a study in vagueness. If he had been given instructions to avoid saying anything about anything he couldn’t have done a better job.

The Journal concludes:

The President-elect dodged a question about whether he might abandon his plans to raise taxes on upper-incomes. The bad news is that he replied that he thinks his campaign agenda (which includes a huge tax increase on “the rich”) is still the best policy blueprint. The good news is he didn’t expressly say he’d insist on tax increases, leaving himself some running room.

Mr. Obama will take office with an enormous amount of goodwill, but good feeling alone won’t bring lending and risk-taking back to the economy. Americans are waiting to see if their President-elect is going to be the class warrior he sometimes was in the campaign, or push a pro-growth agenda that can get cash off the sidelines and moderate the recession.

Vagueness worked well for Obama in the campaign. Better to let everyone guess at his true intentions and absorb a general sense of calm and moderation. But now he has to act, choose and incur opposition. None of this is familiar stuff for the neophyte executive. It will be interesting to see how it all works out. And we will eventually get an answer to the greatest mystery in Washington: who was it we just elected?