Commentary Magazine


Obama at the Podium

At today’s press conference, President-elect Barack Obama announced his team and confirmed his essential approach: a big, big stimulus package is coming. The description of an “economic crisis of historic proportions” sets the predicate for what is certain to be a huge government effort to “jolt” the economy.

We learned several noteworthy things. First, the emphasis on Tim Geithner’s international experience and vision confirms this is not a protectionist, inward-looking team. Second, Obama is clearly struggling to lower expectations, warning that things “are likely to get worse before they get better.” Third, in the question section, he gave a perfectly awful, rambling answer on taxes (during which the market dropped 40 points). He seemed reluctant to give up the notion of a tax increase, but allowed that he would rely on his advisors as to whether he would simply wait for the Bush tax cuts to expire. Fourth, he politely declined to criticize Hank Paulson, but did promsie that his administration would offer more clarity so that taxpayers and businesses understood their efforts to revive the economy. Fifth, he plainly wants to do an auto bailout, but was “surprised”–as he delicately put it–that the auto companies didn’t come with a plan to explain how the money would be spent. And finally, he clearly wants to have a final stimulus plan ready to sign in January.

My overall impression: He is emphasizing bipartisanship. Which makes sense. He will need all the support he can get for what will plainly be the most extensive government intervention into the economy in a generation.