Commentary Magazine


Topic: Christina Romer

An Ethics Code for Economists

The Times is reporting this morning that academic economists are considering an ethics code for the profession, something most other disciplines already have.

Naturally, there is opposition. Robert E. Lucas Jr. of the University of Chicago and winner of the Nobel Prize in economics is quoted as saying, “What disciplines economics, like any science, is whether your work can be replicated. It either stands up or it doesn’t. Your motivations and whatnot are secondary.” That, of course, is true up to a point. But economics is hardly the equivalent of, say, physics. Physics is a “hard science”; economics is squishy soft at best. Physics has only one basic theory; economics has many, often flatly at odds with each other. (I remember a doctor telling me once that “when there are a dozen treatments for a particular condition, you know that none of them are any damn good.”) And Lucas’s comment only applies to the academic literature, most of which is unintelligible to the man in the street (and not a few students taking Economics 101).

The real problem is that economics and politics are inextricably bound together. And politicians lie as often and as easily as they breathe. Indeed, the discipline was known as “political economy” in the 19th century. Economists often move between the academic and political realms, a professor one year, a chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors the next, and then back to academia. The council’s current chairman, Austan Goolsbee, is on leave from the University of Chicago. His predecessor, Christina Romer, was a professor at Berkeley before coming to the White House and is back there again. And they often have remunerative moonlighting gigs as well. Laura D’Andrea Tyson was chairman of the council in the Clinton years. She’s now a professor at Berkeley. She also sits on the board of Morgan Stanley, one of Wall Street’s biggest banks.

When an economist is writing a op-ed or being quoted in the popular media, as opposed to an academic paper, that’s at least as much politics as science. The various hats they wear should all be disclosed. That seems so simple that even an economist should be able to grasp it.

The Times is reporting this morning that academic economists are considering an ethics code for the profession, something most other disciplines already have.

Naturally, there is opposition. Robert E. Lucas Jr. of the University of Chicago and winner of the Nobel Prize in economics is quoted as saying, “What disciplines economics, like any science, is whether your work can be replicated. It either stands up or it doesn’t. Your motivations and whatnot are secondary.” That, of course, is true up to a point. But economics is hardly the equivalent of, say, physics. Physics is a “hard science”; economics is squishy soft at best. Physics has only one basic theory; economics has many, often flatly at odds with each other. (I remember a doctor telling me once that “when there are a dozen treatments for a particular condition, you know that none of them are any damn good.”) And Lucas’s comment only applies to the academic literature, most of which is unintelligible to the man in the street (and not a few students taking Economics 101).

The real problem is that economics and politics are inextricably bound together. And politicians lie as often and as easily as they breathe. Indeed, the discipline was known as “political economy” in the 19th century. Economists often move between the academic and political realms, a professor one year, a chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors the next, and then back to academia. The council’s current chairman, Austan Goolsbee, is on leave from the University of Chicago. His predecessor, Christina Romer, was a professor at Berkeley before coming to the White House and is back there again. And they often have remunerative moonlighting gigs as well. Laura D’Andrea Tyson was chairman of the council in the Clinton years. She’s now a professor at Berkeley. She also sits on the board of Morgan Stanley, one of Wall Street’s biggest banks.

When an economist is writing a op-ed or being quoted in the popular media, as opposed to an academic paper, that’s at least as much politics as science. The various hats they wear should all be disclosed. That seems so simple that even an economist should be able to grasp it.

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The Cocooned President

The Washington Post tells us that Obama is to be “deprived” within the next six months or so of the services of Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod (who will go run Obama’s reelection campaign, a task indistinguishable from his current role), James Jones, and other advisers. (Before you get excited, remember who is picking their successors.) The Post tells us that the worldly and sophisticated president (the media told us he was, so how can that be wrong?) “doesn’t like new people.” Let’s hope that isn’t right. Because, to be frank, you’d expect more social adeptness and flexibility from a third grader (and I do). Unfortunately, the problem is all too real:

Recent White House hires reflect the president’s desire to surround himself with people he knows well. Elizabeth Warren, recently tapped as the government’s first consumer protection adviser, is someone Obama describes as a “dear friend.” Austan Goolsbee, brought in as the new chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, has been in the Obama orbit much longer than the woman he replaced, Christina Romer.

It seems — really, who knew? — as though the president is too insulated:

“They miscalculated where people were out in the country on jobs, on spending, on the deficit, on debt,” said a longtime Democratic strategist who works with the White House on a variety of issues. “They have not been able to get ahead of any of it. And it’s all about the insularity. Otherwise how do you explain how a group who came in with more goodwill in decades squandered it?” The strategist asked not to be identified in order to speak freely about the president and his staff.

This is not an uncommon view among Democratic political professionals, many of whom share the goals of the White House but have grown frustrated with a staff they see as unapproachable and set in their ways.

The solution? Valerie Jarrett as chief of staff!

Apparently yes men and women, unwilling to challenge Obama’s basic assumptions or deliver inconvenient truths, are in high demand. No hope and change for Obama.

This peek at the White House’s circle-the-wagons mentality suggests that Obama is not one to reassess, clean house, and chart a new course after the midterms. It might take him out of his comfort zone. That’s bad news for the country, but music to the ears of the 2012 GOP presidential contenders.

The Washington Post tells us that Obama is to be “deprived” within the next six months or so of the services of Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod (who will go run Obama’s reelection campaign, a task indistinguishable from his current role), James Jones, and other advisers. (Before you get excited, remember who is picking their successors.) The Post tells us that the worldly and sophisticated president (the media told us he was, so how can that be wrong?) “doesn’t like new people.” Let’s hope that isn’t right. Because, to be frank, you’d expect more social adeptness and flexibility from a third grader (and I do). Unfortunately, the problem is all too real:

Recent White House hires reflect the president’s desire to surround himself with people he knows well. Elizabeth Warren, recently tapped as the government’s first consumer protection adviser, is someone Obama describes as a “dear friend.” Austan Goolsbee, brought in as the new chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, has been in the Obama orbit much longer than the woman he replaced, Christina Romer.

It seems — really, who knew? — as though the president is too insulated:

“They miscalculated where people were out in the country on jobs, on spending, on the deficit, on debt,” said a longtime Democratic strategist who works with the White House on a variety of issues. “They have not been able to get ahead of any of it. And it’s all about the insularity. Otherwise how do you explain how a group who came in with more goodwill in decades squandered it?” The strategist asked not to be identified in order to speak freely about the president and his staff.

This is not an uncommon view among Democratic political professionals, many of whom share the goals of the White House but have grown frustrated with a staff they see as unapproachable and set in their ways.

The solution? Valerie Jarrett as chief of staff!

Apparently yes men and women, unwilling to challenge Obama’s basic assumptions or deliver inconvenient truths, are in high demand. No hope and change for Obama.

This peek at the White House’s circle-the-wagons mentality suggests that Obama is not one to reassess, clean house, and chart a new course after the midterms. It might take him out of his comfort zone. That’s bad news for the country, but music to the ears of the 2012 GOP presidential contenders.

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Now Liberal Women Are Mad at Him Too

Young people, old people, Hispanics, and independents have all grown weary of Obama. His base is grouchy, sensing that a deluge is coming. And now the self-appointed feminist bean counters are in a snit:

President Obama is facing new criticism from women’s rights groups for failing to nominate a woman to his core group of economic advisers.

Obama on Friday named longtime adviser Austan Goolsbee to head the Council of Economic Advisers after Christina Romer left to return to the University of California at Berkeley.

Women’s rights groups — including the National Organization for Women (NOW) and The New Agenda — have sharply criticized the White House for not including more women in prominent positions overseeing the economy and financial policy.

Not enough for them to have the secretary of state, the secretary of health and human services, the labor secretary, two new Supreme Court justices, and a potential chief of staff (Valerie Jarrett). You can almost sympathize with the White House. Almost – because it, along with every other Democratic administration in recent history, has played the diversity game, proudly showing off its women and minorities as evidence of its anti-bias credentials. Apparently, one of the rules now in this tiresome game is that a woman has to substitute for a woman, or a woman has to be named in the same policy area.

Good golly. If anything, women’s groups should be pleased that their sisters haven’t been sullied by association with possibly the worst economic team since Herbert Hoover. All those men will have a blot on their records, but not the liberal sisterhood.

This sure does seem badly out of date, a creaky remnant of the 1970s: “‘The problem with the president insulating himself with the old boys around him is that he is really not getting information about how people are struggling, how women are struggling,’ Terry O’Neill, head of NOW, said earlier last week.” Do people believe this claptrap anymore?

The real motive, however, may be to pressure the Obami into appointing a left-wing zealot (Elizabeth Warren) to head up the new consumer financial protection office. Maybe if they guilt-trip him, they’ll get their gal in the spot. Well, if Obama is willing to use yet another recess appointment, it’s possible, but there’s little chance she’ll get through the Senate. The current Senate (not to mention the next one) will be reluctant to rubber-stamp another extremist.

You wonder how much longer NOW will be in business. Perhaps NOW and the NAACP should get together for a going-out-of-business sale. Really, the rest of us have moved on. Isn’t it time they did too?

Young people, old people, Hispanics, and independents have all grown weary of Obama. His base is grouchy, sensing that a deluge is coming. And now the self-appointed feminist bean counters are in a snit:

President Obama is facing new criticism from women’s rights groups for failing to nominate a woman to his core group of economic advisers.

Obama on Friday named longtime adviser Austan Goolsbee to head the Council of Economic Advisers after Christina Romer left to return to the University of California at Berkeley.

Women’s rights groups — including the National Organization for Women (NOW) and The New Agenda — have sharply criticized the White House for not including more women in prominent positions overseeing the economy and financial policy.

Not enough for them to have the secretary of state, the secretary of health and human services, the labor secretary, two new Supreme Court justices, and a potential chief of staff (Valerie Jarrett). You can almost sympathize with the White House. Almost – because it, along with every other Democratic administration in recent history, has played the diversity game, proudly showing off its women and minorities as evidence of its anti-bias credentials. Apparently, one of the rules now in this tiresome game is that a woman has to substitute for a woman, or a woman has to be named in the same policy area.

Good golly. If anything, women’s groups should be pleased that their sisters haven’t been sullied by association with possibly the worst economic team since Herbert Hoover. All those men will have a blot on their records, but not the liberal sisterhood.

This sure does seem badly out of date, a creaky remnant of the 1970s: “‘The problem with the president insulating himself with the old boys around him is that he is really not getting information about how people are struggling, how women are struggling,’ Terry O’Neill, head of NOW, said earlier last week.” Do people believe this claptrap anymore?

The real motive, however, may be to pressure the Obami into appointing a left-wing zealot (Elizabeth Warren) to head up the new consumer financial protection office. Maybe if they guilt-trip him, they’ll get their gal in the spot. Well, if Obama is willing to use yet another recess appointment, it’s possible, but there’s little chance she’ll get through the Senate. The current Senate (not to mention the next one) will be reluctant to rubber-stamp another extremist.

You wonder how much longer NOW will be in business. Perhaps NOW and the NAACP should get together for a going-out-of-business sale. Really, the rest of us have moved on. Isn’t it time they did too?

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Defining Recovery Down

What are we to make of the most recent jobs report, which shows that (a) unemployment increased from 9.5 percent to 9.6 percent and (b) nonfarm payrolls fell by 54,000 last month? If you’re White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, you tweet, “Don’t be fooled — the economy added 67,000 private sector jobs, 8th straight month of added private sector jobs, job loss came in Census work.” Picking up on this, David Mark, Politico’s senior editor, writes this:

At the White House Friday morning President Obama praised the private sector addition of 67,000 jobs in August, the eighth straight month of job growth. “That’s positive news, and it reflects the steps we’ve already taken to break the back of this recession. But it’s not good enough,” the president said. And Christina Romer, outgoing chair of the president’s Council of Economic Advisors, said the jobs figures were “better than expected.” Do they have a point about a slowly-but-surely improving jobs situation?

The answer is “no.” To understand why, it might be helpful to put things in a wider perspective. Read More

What are we to make of the most recent jobs report, which shows that (a) unemployment increased from 9.5 percent to 9.6 percent and (b) nonfarm payrolls fell by 54,000 last month? If you’re White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, you tweet, “Don’t be fooled — the economy added 67,000 private sector jobs, 8th straight month of added private sector jobs, job loss came in Census work.” Picking up on this, David Mark, Politico’s senior editor, writes this:

At the White House Friday morning President Obama praised the private sector addition of 67,000 jobs in August, the eighth straight month of job growth. “That’s positive news, and it reflects the steps we’ve already taken to break the back of this recession. But it’s not good enough,” the president said. And Christina Romer, outgoing chair of the president’s Council of Economic Advisors, said the jobs figures were “better than expected.” Do they have a point about a slowly-but-surely improving jobs situation?

The answer is “no.” To understand why, it might be helpful to put things in a wider perspective.

For one thing, the so-called underemployment rate, which includes workers who are working part-time but who want full-time work, increased from 16.5 percent to 16.7 percent. During our supposed “Recovery Summer,” we have lost 283,000 jobs (54,000 in June, 171,000 in July, and 54,000 in August). And for August, the employment-population ratio — the percentage of Americans with jobs — was 58.5 percent. We haven’t seen figures this low in nearly three decades. As Henry Olson of the American Enterprise Institute points out, “Since the start of this summer, nearly 400,000 Americans have entered the labor force, but only 130,000 have found jobs. … America’s adult population has risen by 2 million people since [August 2009], but the number of adults with jobs has dropped by 180,000. The unemployment rate declined slightly despite these numbers, from 9.7 percent to 9.6 percent, because over 2.3 million people have left the labor force entirely, so discouraged they are no longer even looking for work. ”

Keep in mind that all this is occurring during a period when job growth should be considerably higher, at least based on past post-recession recoveries. Former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers Michael Boskin points out that “compared to the 6.2% first-year Ford recovery and 7.7% Reagan recovery, the Obama recovery at 3% is less than half speed.” Bear in mind, too, that today’s jobs report comes a week after the GDP for the second quarter was revised downward, from 2.4 percent to 1.6 percent. Economists generally agree that the economy needs to grow 2.5 percent to keep unemployment from going up, and a good deal better than that to begin to bring it substantially down.

What all this means, I think, is that we’re not in a recovery at all, at least not in any meaningful sense. And those who insist otherwise are (to amend a phrase from Daniel Patrick Moynihan) Defining Recovery Down.

The most recent GDP figures also have harmful fiscal ramifications. For example, estimates for the deficit this year (more than $1.3 trillion) are based on both the Congressional Budget Office’s and the Obama administration’s assumption of roughly 3 percent growth. If growth is well below that, government revenues are going to be lower than estimated. And so this year’s deficit and net increase in the debt are going to be worse than even the (already quite troubling) projections. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve has very few, if any, arrows left in its quiver. It has done just about all that can be done.

The narrative the Obama administration is trying to sell is that we were on the edge of another Great Depression but avoided it and are now, in the president’s oft-repeated phrase, “moving in the right direction.” If we persist in following Obama’s policies on spending, taxes, and regulations, Obama assures us, we will build on this recovery and turn a sluggish one into a strong one. At the end of Obamaism lies the land of milk and honey.

This is wishful thinking. The economy right now is sick and, in some important respects, getting sicker. And the president is pursuing policies that are not only not helping; they are downright counterproductive.

Robert Gibbs can tweet away, but he cannot tweet away reality.

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RE: Misinformation, Disinformation, and ObamaCare

Pete, you are in good company in observing that Obama has strayed far from verifiable, or even plausible, arguments when it comes to defending his own policies. Michael Boskin writes:

A president’s most valuable asset—with voters, Congress, allies and enemies—is credibility. So it is unfortunate when extreme exaggeration emanates from the White House. … President Obama says “every economist who’s looked at it says that the Recovery Act has done its job”—i.e., the stimulus bill has turned the economy around. That’s nonsense. Opinions differ widely and many leading economists believe that its impact has been small. Why? The expectation of future spending and future tax hikes to pay for the stimulus and Mr. Obama’s vast expansion of government are offsetting the direct short-run expansionary effect. That is standard in all macroeconomic theories.

Boskin makes a convincing case that Obama’s own advisers are more grounded in reality than the president. He provides a number of examples, including this:

On his recent “Recovery Tour,” Mr. Obama boasted, “The stimulus bill prevented the unemployment rate from “getting up to … 15%.” But the president’s own chief economic adviser, Christina Romer, has estimated that the stimulus bill reduced peak unemployment by one percentage point—i.e., since the unemployment rate peaked at 10.1%, it prevented the unemployment rate from rising to just over 11%. So Mr. Obama claims that the stimulus bill was several times more potent than his chief economic adviser estimates.

Perhaps the most serious disconnect concerns the impending expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, which will raise the top two income tax rates and the rates on dividends and capital gains. If these growth inhibiting tax increases occur—about $75 billion in tax increases next year, $1.4 trillion over 10 years—there will be serious economic damage.

In the most recent issue of the American Economic Review, Ms. Romer (and her husband David H. Romer) conclude that “tax increases are highly contractionary … tax cuts have very large and persistent positive output effects.” Their estimates imply the tax increases would depress GDP by roughly half the growth rate in this so-far-anemic recovery.

As Boskin argues, these untruths don’t bolster confidence. Quite the opposite. Investors and employers hear this stuff and conclude that the White House is clueless and erratic. It doesn’t matter whether Obama is intentionally misleading the public or has become so insulated from “bad news” that he doesn’t realize how far he has strayed. But someone in the White House needs to pull him aside and say, “Enough, Mr. President.” It would do him and the country a world of good.

Pete, you are in good company in observing that Obama has strayed far from verifiable, or even plausible, arguments when it comes to defending his own policies. Michael Boskin writes:

A president’s most valuable asset—with voters, Congress, allies and enemies—is credibility. So it is unfortunate when extreme exaggeration emanates from the White House. … President Obama says “every economist who’s looked at it says that the Recovery Act has done its job”—i.e., the stimulus bill has turned the economy around. That’s nonsense. Opinions differ widely and many leading economists believe that its impact has been small. Why? The expectation of future spending and future tax hikes to pay for the stimulus and Mr. Obama’s vast expansion of government are offsetting the direct short-run expansionary effect. That is standard in all macroeconomic theories.

Boskin makes a convincing case that Obama’s own advisers are more grounded in reality than the president. He provides a number of examples, including this:

On his recent “Recovery Tour,” Mr. Obama boasted, “The stimulus bill prevented the unemployment rate from “getting up to … 15%.” But the president’s own chief economic adviser, Christina Romer, has estimated that the stimulus bill reduced peak unemployment by one percentage point—i.e., since the unemployment rate peaked at 10.1%, it prevented the unemployment rate from rising to just over 11%. So Mr. Obama claims that the stimulus bill was several times more potent than his chief economic adviser estimates.

Perhaps the most serious disconnect concerns the impending expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, which will raise the top two income tax rates and the rates on dividends and capital gains. If these growth inhibiting tax increases occur—about $75 billion in tax increases next year, $1.4 trillion over 10 years—there will be serious economic damage.

In the most recent issue of the American Economic Review, Ms. Romer (and her husband David H. Romer) conclude that “tax increases are highly contractionary … tax cuts have very large and persistent positive output effects.” Their estimates imply the tax increases would depress GDP by roughly half the growth rate in this so-far-anemic recovery.

As Boskin argues, these untruths don’t bolster confidence. Quite the opposite. Investors and employers hear this stuff and conclude that the White House is clueless and erratic. It doesn’t matter whether Obama is intentionally misleading the public or has become so insulated from “bad news” that he doesn’t realize how far he has strayed. But someone in the White House needs to pull him aside and say, “Enough, Mr. President.” It would do him and the country a world of good.

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A Political and Economic Failure

The Wall Street Journal editors write:

Yesterday, President Obama’s chief economist announced that the plan had “created or saved” between 2.5 million and 3.6 million jobs and raised GDP by 2.7% to 3.2% through June 30. Don’t you feel better already?

Christina Romer went so far as to claim that the 3.5 million new jobs that she promised while the stimulus was being debated in Congress will arrive “two quarters earlier than anticipated.” Yup, the official White House line is that the plan is working better than even they had hoped.

We almost feel sorry for Ms. Romer having to make this argument given that since February 2009 the U.S. economy has lost a net 2.35 million jobs. Using the White House “created or saved” measure means that even if there were only three million Americans left with jobs today, the White House could claim that every one was saved by the stimulus.

There is an economic and a political aspect to this. As for the politics, no one is buying the White House spin. Each time the administration trots out the argument about how wonderful the stimulus has been, I suspect they lose votes and do further damage to their already waning credibility.

And the voters are right to roll their eyes. The economics on which the Obami rely is the equivalent of alchemy. The editors explain:

All of these White House jobs estimates are based on the increasingly discredited Keynesian spending “multiplier,” which according to White House economist Larry Summers means that every $1 of government spending will yield roughly $1.50 in higher GDP. Ms. Romer thus plugs her spending data into the Keynesian computer models and, presto, out come 2.5 million to 3.6 million jobs, even if the real economy has lost jobs.

The reality is that the multiplier is less than 1. Fifty years of spending research shows “a multiplier effect of between 0.4 and 0.7. This means that government spending shrinks the private economy, because it ‘crowds out other components of GDP, particularly investment.’”

So it’s no surprise that we have unemployment at historically high levels. What is surprising is that a political operation so deft during the campaign is now so utterly tone-deaf. Even if they are economically illiterate, they should at least be able to read the polls and know that their argument is doing more harm than good. Sort of like the stimulus plan itself.

The Wall Street Journal editors write:

Yesterday, President Obama’s chief economist announced that the plan had “created or saved” between 2.5 million and 3.6 million jobs and raised GDP by 2.7% to 3.2% through June 30. Don’t you feel better already?

Christina Romer went so far as to claim that the 3.5 million new jobs that she promised while the stimulus was being debated in Congress will arrive “two quarters earlier than anticipated.” Yup, the official White House line is that the plan is working better than even they had hoped.

We almost feel sorry for Ms. Romer having to make this argument given that since February 2009 the U.S. economy has lost a net 2.35 million jobs. Using the White House “created or saved” measure means that even if there were only three million Americans left with jobs today, the White House could claim that every one was saved by the stimulus.

There is an economic and a political aspect to this. As for the politics, no one is buying the White House spin. Each time the administration trots out the argument about how wonderful the stimulus has been, I suspect they lose votes and do further damage to their already waning credibility.

And the voters are right to roll their eyes. The economics on which the Obami rely is the equivalent of alchemy. The editors explain:

All of these White House jobs estimates are based on the increasingly discredited Keynesian spending “multiplier,” which according to White House economist Larry Summers means that every $1 of government spending will yield roughly $1.50 in higher GDP. Ms. Romer thus plugs her spending data into the Keynesian computer models and, presto, out come 2.5 million to 3.6 million jobs, even if the real economy has lost jobs.

The reality is that the multiplier is less than 1. Fifty years of spending research shows “a multiplier effect of between 0.4 and 0.7. This means that government spending shrinks the private economy, because it ‘crowds out other components of GDP, particularly investment.’”

So it’s no surprise that we have unemployment at historically high levels. What is surprising is that a political operation so deft during the campaign is now so utterly tone-deaf. Even if they are economically illiterate, they should at least be able to read the polls and know that their argument is doing more harm than good. Sort of like the stimulus plan itself.

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Obama Economic Team Tied up in Spin

The Obama administration is lowering expectations and getting tangled up in its own spin. On one hand, the Obama economic team needs to prepare the public for a period of high unemployment:

The economy is growing again, but at a pace unlikely to quickly replace the 8.4 million jobs erased in the recession that began in late 2007. More than 11 million people are drawing unemployment insurance benefits.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” said Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council. “We’ve inherited a terrible situation, the most pressing economic problems since the Great Depression in our country.” [In case you thought the Obama team was ever going to stop blaming George W. Bush, think again.]

Christina Romer, head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said consumers still face “a lot of head winds” from the financial crisis. For example, debt and credit difficulties are hampering stronger job growth.

They were echoing the words of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who said last week the administration was “very worried” about returning to a more normal jobless rate of around 5 percent.

Summers said Obama was preoccupied with creating jobs. “The trend has turned, but to get back to the surface, we’ve got a long way to go,” Summers said.

Preoccupied? Well, that can certainly be said of health-care reform, but what, precisely, has Obama been doing to promote job growth? Certainly raising billions and billions in new taxes in the guise of health-care “reform” and allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire aren’t helping job creation. Nor will cap-and-trade, if the Obama team has its way.

And the job picture is likely to get worse, not better, as more workers return to the job market, as this report explains:

Some economists assert that the unemployment rate, which held steady at 9.7 percent in March, is likely to be driven higher as many more such people are lured into looking for work by hopeful signs of recovery.

The number of people looking for jobs rose by more than 200,000 in March compared with February, according to the Economic Policy Institute — and that’s a good sign, economists say. It means that Americans are seeing more jobs being created, and that they’re optimistic about their prospects.

But the supply of new jobs — 162,000 in March, the biggest monthly increase in three years — will accommodate only a fraction of the unemployed. Some economists say the jobless rate will not recede to pre-recession levels near 5 percent for four more years.

Meanwhile, the buckle-your-seat-belts-it’s-going-to-be-a-bumpy-ride warning runs headlong into the Obama team’s persistent defense of the original stimulus bill, which was supposed to keep unemployment at 8 percent. Christina Romer proclaimed, “I think it has done exactly what we would say it would do.” Uh… not really. Needless to say, Republicans are pouncing on the insistence that everything is going exactly according to plan. “Romer’s comments are likely to raise the ire of Republicans in Congress. On Friday, the office of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) released a memo showing that the stimulus has failed to keep unemployment under 8 percent as the administration said it would do.”

In sum, job growth is anemic, and the Obama administration cannot identify  a single effective policy it has advanced to promote job creation. Instead, it has run up a mound of debt and pursued policies that are likely to hamper rather than to facilitate job growth. The administration’s spinners can’t quite decide — brag about their expertly designed stimulus or lower expectations for any relief in the near term from sky-high unemployment? Frankly, the Obama team can spin all it likes; the voters can see for themselves that Obama administration and Democratic Congress have failed in their own stated goal to keep unemployment below 8 percent and promote robust private-sector job growth.

The Obama administration is lowering expectations and getting tangled up in its own spin. On one hand, the Obama economic team needs to prepare the public for a period of high unemployment:

The economy is growing again, but at a pace unlikely to quickly replace the 8.4 million jobs erased in the recession that began in late 2007. More than 11 million people are drawing unemployment insurance benefits.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” said Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council. “We’ve inherited a terrible situation, the most pressing economic problems since the Great Depression in our country.” [In case you thought the Obama team was ever going to stop blaming George W. Bush, think again.]

Christina Romer, head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said consumers still face “a lot of head winds” from the financial crisis. For example, debt and credit difficulties are hampering stronger job growth.

They were echoing the words of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who said last week the administration was “very worried” about returning to a more normal jobless rate of around 5 percent.

Summers said Obama was preoccupied with creating jobs. “The trend has turned, but to get back to the surface, we’ve got a long way to go,” Summers said.

Preoccupied? Well, that can certainly be said of health-care reform, but what, precisely, has Obama been doing to promote job growth? Certainly raising billions and billions in new taxes in the guise of health-care “reform” and allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire aren’t helping job creation. Nor will cap-and-trade, if the Obama team has its way.

And the job picture is likely to get worse, not better, as more workers return to the job market, as this report explains:

Some economists assert that the unemployment rate, which held steady at 9.7 percent in March, is likely to be driven higher as many more such people are lured into looking for work by hopeful signs of recovery.

The number of people looking for jobs rose by more than 200,000 in March compared with February, according to the Economic Policy Institute — and that’s a good sign, economists say. It means that Americans are seeing more jobs being created, and that they’re optimistic about their prospects.

But the supply of new jobs — 162,000 in March, the biggest monthly increase in three years — will accommodate only a fraction of the unemployed. Some economists say the jobless rate will not recede to pre-recession levels near 5 percent for four more years.

Meanwhile, the buckle-your-seat-belts-it’s-going-to-be-a-bumpy-ride warning runs headlong into the Obama team’s persistent defense of the original stimulus bill, which was supposed to keep unemployment at 8 percent. Christina Romer proclaimed, “I think it has done exactly what we would say it would do.” Uh… not really. Needless to say, Republicans are pouncing on the insistence that everything is going exactly according to plan. “Romer’s comments are likely to raise the ire of Republicans in Congress. On Friday, the office of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) released a memo showing that the stimulus has failed to keep unemployment under 8 percent as the administration said it would do.”

In sum, job growth is anemic, and the Obama administration cannot identify  a single effective policy it has advanced to promote job creation. Instead, it has run up a mound of debt and pursued policies that are likely to hamper rather than to facilitate job growth. The administration’s spinners can’t quite decide — brag about their expertly designed stimulus or lower expectations for any relief in the near term from sky-high unemployment? Frankly, the Obama team can spin all it likes; the voters can see for themselves that Obama administration and Democratic Congress have failed in their own stated goal to keep unemployment below 8 percent and promote robust private-sector job growth.

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It’s the Unemployment

The Obama team is predicting 8.2 percent unemployment — in 2012. Well, good luck to those trying to run for reelection on that economic record. As Christina Romer puts it, “The usual relationship between G.D.P. growth and the unemployment rate has broken down somewhat. The unemployment rate has risen much more than one would have predicted.” Perhaps if the Obama agenda didn’t include massive tax hikes, a batch of new mandates on job-creators, and red ink as far as the eye can see, we could re-establish that relationship. Just saying.

But, meanwhile, Gallup reports:

The percentage of Americans mentioning unemployment as the most important problem facing the United States rose nine percentage points in the past month, from 22% to 31%, and has nearly doubled since December. As recently as November 2008, the figure was in the single digits.

This sounds like a political train wreck for Obama and incumbent Democrats. By their own estimates, unemployment will remain sky-high, causing voters to focus on this issue as the most important among many. It will drown out, I suspect, many of the Democrats’ favorite ploys — blaming George W. Bush, pushing hot-button social issues (remember when conservatives did that?), etc. At some point ( this year’s elections for starters), the party that controls everything in Washington must be held accountable for the results it achieves. It is highly unlikely that many of its members will keep their jobs so long as so many Americans have lost theirs.

The Obama team is predicting 8.2 percent unemployment — in 2012. Well, good luck to those trying to run for reelection on that economic record. As Christina Romer puts it, “The usual relationship between G.D.P. growth and the unemployment rate has broken down somewhat. The unemployment rate has risen much more than one would have predicted.” Perhaps if the Obama agenda didn’t include massive tax hikes, a batch of new mandates on job-creators, and red ink as far as the eye can see, we could re-establish that relationship. Just saying.

But, meanwhile, Gallup reports:

The percentage of Americans mentioning unemployment as the most important problem facing the United States rose nine percentage points in the past month, from 22% to 31%, and has nearly doubled since December. As recently as November 2008, the figure was in the single digits.

This sounds like a political train wreck for Obama and incumbent Democrats. By their own estimates, unemployment will remain sky-high, causing voters to focus on this issue as the most important among many. It will drown out, I suspect, many of the Democrats’ favorite ploys — blaming George W. Bush, pushing hot-button social issues (remember when conservatives did that?), etc. At some point ( this year’s elections for starters), the party that controls everything in Washington must be held accountable for the results it achieves. It is highly unlikely that many of its members will keep their jobs so long as so many Americans have lost theirs.

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Republicans Would Have to Invent Pelosi if She Didn’t Exist

A headline like this must send shivers up the spines of  Democrats and bring smiles to the faces of 2010 Republican candidates: “Nancy Pelosi resists President Obama’s outreach efforts.” She is so perfectly tone-deaf, so utterly opposed to compromise, and so unfazed by the political peril that dozens of her members face, that one sometimes suspects another devious Karl Rove plot is in the works. (Maybe Pelosi could oppose all tax cuts! Then she could reject even the baby-step spending freeze!)

But to the chagrin of many Democrats, this is for real. Pelosi isn’t interested in anything other than spending gobs more money and passing ObamaCare. This report gives the blow-by-blow from Tuesday’s White House meeting:

White House economic advisers Christina Romer and Larry Summers defended the administration’s proposal to give employers a $5,000 credit for each new worker they hire as well as help with Social Security taxes.

Pelosi countered that no one she’s consulted believes that the plan will actually lead to the creation of new jobs, sources said.

“She questioned the efficacy of it,” one Democratic aide said.

Another Democratic aide said that Pelosi has “some concerns about the tax side” of the jobs bill Senate Democrats are trying to pass, but that she didn’t say she’d refuse to move the bill through the House if it clears the Senate.

Pelosi’s push back against the tax credit plan is the latest in a series of breaks with White House officials.

You do sometimes wonder if the White House wouldn’t do better if Pelosi were the Minority Leader. She’s been quite an annoyance of late. (“Most recently, she questioned Obama’s proposal for a three-year freeze on discretionary non-security spending, saying any freeze should apply equally to defense as well as domestic spending.”) And she certainly does exemplify the anti-business, anti-growth, pro-tax-hike image Democrats are perpetually trying to live down (because they keep proposing anti-business, anti-growth legislation and tax hikes, I suppose). Well, Obama may get his chance to deal with a Republican-controlled Congress if she keeps this up.

For the Republicans, this is political manna. Pelosi is the poster girl for political extremism and for big-government infatuation. If they’re lucky, she’ll stick to her guns, hobble the feeble steps by the White House to reach out to Republicans, and remind voters that the Democrats never met a tax break or a spending freeze they could support.

A headline like this must send shivers up the spines of  Democrats and bring smiles to the faces of 2010 Republican candidates: “Nancy Pelosi resists President Obama’s outreach efforts.” She is so perfectly tone-deaf, so utterly opposed to compromise, and so unfazed by the political peril that dozens of her members face, that one sometimes suspects another devious Karl Rove plot is in the works. (Maybe Pelosi could oppose all tax cuts! Then she could reject even the baby-step spending freeze!)

But to the chagrin of many Democrats, this is for real. Pelosi isn’t interested in anything other than spending gobs more money and passing ObamaCare. This report gives the blow-by-blow from Tuesday’s White House meeting:

White House economic advisers Christina Romer and Larry Summers defended the administration’s proposal to give employers a $5,000 credit for each new worker they hire as well as help with Social Security taxes.

Pelosi countered that no one she’s consulted believes that the plan will actually lead to the creation of new jobs, sources said.

“She questioned the efficacy of it,” one Democratic aide said.

Another Democratic aide said that Pelosi has “some concerns about the tax side” of the jobs bill Senate Democrats are trying to pass, but that she didn’t say she’d refuse to move the bill through the House if it clears the Senate.

Pelosi’s push back against the tax credit plan is the latest in a series of breaks with White House officials.

You do sometimes wonder if the White House wouldn’t do better if Pelosi were the Minority Leader. She’s been quite an annoyance of late. (“Most recently, she questioned Obama’s proposal for a three-year freeze on discretionary non-security spending, saying any freeze should apply equally to defense as well as domestic spending.”) And she certainly does exemplify the anti-business, anti-growth, pro-tax-hike image Democrats are perpetually trying to live down (because they keep proposing anti-business, anti-growth legislation and tax hikes, I suppose). Well, Obama may get his chance to deal with a Republican-controlled Congress if she keeps this up.

For the Republicans, this is political manna. Pelosi is the poster girl for political extremism and for big-government infatuation. If they’re lucky, she’ll stick to her guns, hobble the feeble steps by the White House to reach out to Republicans, and remind voters that the Democrats never met a tax break or a spending freeze they could support.

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The Tax Lie

You wonder how government officials do it. Self-respecting professionals who enjoyed a good reputation and seem like decent types come to Washington, go to work for an administration, and are required, as part of their job, to propound nonsense. More than nonsense, really — lies. A case in point is Christina Romer’s appearance on State of the Union. John King played for her a tape of then candidate Barack Obama, declaring: “I can make a firm pledge: Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase, not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.” King and Romer then had this exchange:

KING: Does that stand as we head into year two of the Obama administration and you try to make the difficult choices to start to bring the deficit under control? Does that promise still stand, not any of your taxes if you’re under $250,000?

ROMER: I mean, yes. And let me talk, though, about the — the bigger issue, which is, you know, even — to the degree that we, of course, care deeply about the deficit, and you’re right. In 2010, that is going to be something very much that the president is focusing on and talking about.

Say what? No taxes on those making less than $250,000. The Senate bill, which Obama seems to support, has plenty of them. The Cadillac tax on those with generous health-care plans is only one of them. (Here’s a handy list of all the proposed taxes on families making less than $250,000.)

Romer seems like a nice lady, and her research before coming to the Obama administration is well regarded by conservatives and liberals alike. She does herself — and the administration she serves — a disservice to mislead the public. One wonders, given Romer’s comments, just how Obama and the rest of his minions are going to respond to the tax issue. Perhaps like the C-SPAN flip-flop, they’ll just refuse to talk about it.

You wonder how government officials do it. Self-respecting professionals who enjoyed a good reputation and seem like decent types come to Washington, go to work for an administration, and are required, as part of their job, to propound nonsense. More than nonsense, really — lies. A case in point is Christina Romer’s appearance on State of the Union. John King played for her a tape of then candidate Barack Obama, declaring: “I can make a firm pledge: Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase, not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.” King and Romer then had this exchange:

KING: Does that stand as we head into year two of the Obama administration and you try to make the difficult choices to start to bring the deficit under control? Does that promise still stand, not any of your taxes if you’re under $250,000?

ROMER: I mean, yes. And let me talk, though, about the — the bigger issue, which is, you know, even — to the degree that we, of course, care deeply about the deficit, and you’re right. In 2010, that is going to be something very much that the president is focusing on and talking about.

Say what? No taxes on those making less than $250,000. The Senate bill, which Obama seems to support, has plenty of them. The Cadillac tax on those with generous health-care plans is only one of them. (Here’s a handy list of all the proposed taxes on families making less than $250,000.)

Romer seems like a nice lady, and her research before coming to the Obama administration is well regarded by conservatives and liberals alike. She does herself — and the administration she serves — a disservice to mislead the public. One wonders, given Romer’s comments, just how Obama and the rest of his minions are going to respond to the tax issue. Perhaps like the C-SPAN flip-flop, they’ll just refuse to talk about it.

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The Perils of Executive Inexperience

Al Hunt writes a column that reveals the typical finger-pointing and backbiting that ensues when things are not going all that well in an administration. First, he relates this episode:

On Dec. 2, as Obama prepared to give a major economic speech at the Brookings Institution on Dec. 8 (and a day after his Afghanistan speech at West Point) he met with policy makers. He heard a familiar reprise of the previous several meetings with budget director Peter Orszag arguing for more emphasis on reducing the deficit and Council of Economic Advisers chief Christina Romer leading the contingent espousing a greater short-term stress on jobs. The president, by his standards, exploded. Why are we having this meeting again, the same discussion, participants quoted him as saying.

But really, who comes off looking bad in this one? It’s Obama. He is the one who apparently allows the same discussion to churn endlessly. He is the one who hasn’t set the direction of his economic policy. (And that aides would not just finger-point at each other but also suggest that the president is lacking in executive mojo tells us that both focus and loyalty are in short supply in this White House.) Hunt continues with this:

The other problem, an inability to effectively communicate an economic policy, was typified in a Dec. 4 interview with Geithner, who was asked what is the clear, coherent economic message of the administration. He proceeded to talk about high-class education for children, affordable health care, better incentives for energy and infrastructure, public-private arrangements and the like. There are 15.4 million unemployed Americans and another 11.5 million underemployed, either having given up looking and thus not counted in the jobless numbers or involuntarily relegated to part-time work. A laundry list of the Democrats agenda is unlikely to prove comforting.

But is this really the fault of the hapless Geithner or is this rather a problem characteristic of the president’s own lack of focus? Obama spent a year hawking a health-care plan no one can defend on the merits, while pushing a series of small-beans job proposals and signing on to a stimulus plan widely regarded as a failure. For months we saw a new dog-and-pony show every week, each on a different topic. Obama’s spinners incessantly told us the problem wasn’t that he was trying to do too many things at once. But now it seems that it was and that his key advisers don’t understand the administration’s top priority.

The administration seems to have reached the stage of leaving the advisers and the “message” to be blamed. But it is the president who appointed and directs the advisers. And the president — celebrated for his eloquence — is supposed to be the chief communicator. All of this reveals that the president frankly lacks some basic leadership skills and executive know-how. Obama didn’t come to the White House with any executive experience beyond sitting atop a campaign operation that was fortunate to have on off-message primary opponent followed by a non-message general-election opponent. He never ran a company, directed an agency, led a military organization, or served in any executive office. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the White House doesn’t have its act together. The only mild surprise is that now the mainstream media is willing to tell us about it.

Al Hunt writes a column that reveals the typical finger-pointing and backbiting that ensues when things are not going all that well in an administration. First, he relates this episode:

On Dec. 2, as Obama prepared to give a major economic speech at the Brookings Institution on Dec. 8 (and a day after his Afghanistan speech at West Point) he met with policy makers. He heard a familiar reprise of the previous several meetings with budget director Peter Orszag arguing for more emphasis on reducing the deficit and Council of Economic Advisers chief Christina Romer leading the contingent espousing a greater short-term stress on jobs. The president, by his standards, exploded. Why are we having this meeting again, the same discussion, participants quoted him as saying.

But really, who comes off looking bad in this one? It’s Obama. He is the one who apparently allows the same discussion to churn endlessly. He is the one who hasn’t set the direction of his economic policy. (And that aides would not just finger-point at each other but also suggest that the president is lacking in executive mojo tells us that both focus and loyalty are in short supply in this White House.) Hunt continues with this:

The other problem, an inability to effectively communicate an economic policy, was typified in a Dec. 4 interview with Geithner, who was asked what is the clear, coherent economic message of the administration. He proceeded to talk about high-class education for children, affordable health care, better incentives for energy and infrastructure, public-private arrangements and the like. There are 15.4 million unemployed Americans and another 11.5 million underemployed, either having given up looking and thus not counted in the jobless numbers or involuntarily relegated to part-time work. A laundry list of the Democrats agenda is unlikely to prove comforting.

But is this really the fault of the hapless Geithner or is this rather a problem characteristic of the president’s own lack of focus? Obama spent a year hawking a health-care plan no one can defend on the merits, while pushing a series of small-beans job proposals and signing on to a stimulus plan widely regarded as a failure. For months we saw a new dog-and-pony show every week, each on a different topic. Obama’s spinners incessantly told us the problem wasn’t that he was trying to do too many things at once. But now it seems that it was and that his key advisers don’t understand the administration’s top priority.

The administration seems to have reached the stage of leaving the advisers and the “message” to be blamed. But it is the president who appointed and directs the advisers. And the president — celebrated for his eloquence — is supposed to be the chief communicator. All of this reveals that the president frankly lacks some basic leadership skills and executive know-how. Obama didn’t come to the White House with any executive experience beyond sitting atop a campaign operation that was fortunate to have on off-message primary opponent followed by a non-message general-election opponent. He never ran a company, directed an agency, led a military organization, or served in any executive office. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the White House doesn’t have its act together. The only mild surprise is that now the mainstream media is willing to tell us about it.

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Threatening and Scaring Americans

Obama told us we were on the precipice. That seemed rather, well, scary. People fall off such things and sometimes die. Then we heard that health care had to pass now — or never. No president will ever try this again, although Obama did so after Bill Clinton failed. Now Obama says we have to pass it or go bankrupt. Or he’ll hold his breath and pass out. Or he’ll go on all the Sunday talk shows again. Enough already. Let’s put aside that no one, not even Christina Romer, thinks we’re spending less with this bill. The cost-control provisions are nonexistent, and we’re constructing an unsustainable new entitlement. But aside from the absence of any support for this hooey, it’s the tone that, once again, is striking and so very unpresidential.

Obama has excoriated his opponents for lowering the tone of debate and for scaring their fellow citizens. But really, the flood of invective and hysteria coming from ObamaCare supporters has been unprecedented. Town-hall protesters were “un-American,” according to Harry Reid, and confused or misinformed, according to the president. Now Obama seems to be channeling the global-warming crowd in his never-ending stream of dire predictions. And that’s telling. As George Will summed up: “Rushing to lock the nation into expensive health-care and climate-change commitments, Democrats are in an understandable frenzy because public enthusiasm for both crusades has been inversely proportional to the time the public has had to think about them.”

When liberal elites want to replace private decisions with government mandates, impose massive new costs, give unprecedented powers to government bureaucrats, and generally mess up your life, they must do two things: convince you that the consequences are dire if nothing is done and create a sense of urgency so that thoughtful reflection is replaced by a herd mentality. That’s what the White House and Democratic congressional leadership is reduced to doing now in order to jam through a noxious bill.

One observer remarked:

In Washington, when major bills near final passage, an inside-the-Beltway mentality takes hold. Any bill becomes a victory. Clear thinking is thrown out the window for political calculus. In the heat of battle, decisions are being made that set an irreversible course for how future health reform is done. The result is legislation that has been crafted to get votes, not to reform health care.

Bill Kristol or Sen. Mitch McConnell? No, Howard Dean. And when he has become the voice of sanity and decorum, you know how badly off track we’ve gotten.

Obama told us we were on the precipice. That seemed rather, well, scary. People fall off such things and sometimes die. Then we heard that health care had to pass now — or never. No president will ever try this again, although Obama did so after Bill Clinton failed. Now Obama says we have to pass it or go bankrupt. Or he’ll hold his breath and pass out. Or he’ll go on all the Sunday talk shows again. Enough already. Let’s put aside that no one, not even Christina Romer, thinks we’re spending less with this bill. The cost-control provisions are nonexistent, and we’re constructing an unsustainable new entitlement. But aside from the absence of any support for this hooey, it’s the tone that, once again, is striking and so very unpresidential.

Obama has excoriated his opponents for lowering the tone of debate and for scaring their fellow citizens. But really, the flood of invective and hysteria coming from ObamaCare supporters has been unprecedented. Town-hall protesters were “un-American,” according to Harry Reid, and confused or misinformed, according to the president. Now Obama seems to be channeling the global-warming crowd in his never-ending stream of dire predictions. And that’s telling. As George Will summed up: “Rushing to lock the nation into expensive health-care and climate-change commitments, Democrats are in an understandable frenzy because public enthusiasm for both crusades has been inversely proportional to the time the public has had to think about them.”

When liberal elites want to replace private decisions with government mandates, impose massive new costs, give unprecedented powers to government bureaucrats, and generally mess up your life, they must do two things: convince you that the consequences are dire if nothing is done and create a sense of urgency so that thoughtful reflection is replaced by a herd mentality. That’s what the White House and Democratic congressional leadership is reduced to doing now in order to jam through a noxious bill.

One observer remarked:

In Washington, when major bills near final passage, an inside-the-Beltway mentality takes hold. Any bill becomes a victory. Clear thinking is thrown out the window for political calculus. In the heat of battle, decisions are being made that set an irreversible course for how future health reform is done. The result is legislation that has been crafted to get votes, not to reform health care.

Bill Kristol or Sen. Mitch McConnell? No, Howard Dean. And when he has become the voice of sanity and decorum, you know how badly off track we’ve gotten.

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RE: Can the Obama Administration Afford Any More Missteps?

Well, Pete, they had another today from Christina Romer, who seems to be, like Robert Gates, one of the few in this administration who really can’t lie. For months and months, Democrats have been pushing the notion that we’re going to save money by enacting health-care “reform.” This is balderdash, of course. Today Romer agreed:

We are going to be expanding coverage to some 30 million Americans. And, of course, that’s going to up the level of health-care spending. You can’t do that and not spend more.

But eventually, she says, there will be “a dramatic impact on where we are relative to where we might otherwise have been.” Sort of sounds like those millions of jobs “created or saved” by the stimulus plan that saw us go from 8 percent unemployment to double digits. She explains:

While the legislation initially would increase government spending on Medicare and Medicaid, Romer told reporters, the total cost of the two programs would begin to diminish by 2019, when the legislation would deliver an estimated $14 billion in savings. Lower payments to Medicare providers would translate into savings for Medicare beneficiaries, who have seen some premiums double over the past decade, rising at three times the rate of Social Security.

So by slashing payments to doctors and hospitals, we’ll save money. Maybe. In 10 years. Who could resist such a plan?

Well, Pete, they had another today from Christina Romer, who seems to be, like Robert Gates, one of the few in this administration who really can’t lie. For months and months, Democrats have been pushing the notion that we’re going to save money by enacting health-care “reform.” This is balderdash, of course. Today Romer agreed:

We are going to be expanding coverage to some 30 million Americans. And, of course, that’s going to up the level of health-care spending. You can’t do that and not spend more.

But eventually, she says, there will be “a dramatic impact on where we are relative to where we might otherwise have been.” Sort of sounds like those millions of jobs “created or saved” by the stimulus plan that saw us go from 8 percent unemployment to double digits. She explains:

While the legislation initially would increase government spending on Medicare and Medicaid, Romer told reporters, the total cost of the two programs would begin to diminish by 2019, when the legislation would deliver an estimated $14 billion in savings. Lower payments to Medicare providers would translate into savings for Medicare beneficiaries, who have seen some premiums double over the past decade, rising at three times the rate of Social Security.

So by slashing payments to doctors and hospitals, we’ll save money. Maybe. In 10 years. Who could resist such a plan?

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Can the Obama Administration Afford Any More Missteps?

As problems continue to mount and the president’s approval ratings continue to sink — the latest Rasmussen poll has Obama’s approval rating down to 44 percent, a new low — there are a lot of different, and damaging, story lines developing around the Obama administration. You can add a lack of basic competence to the list.

To take just one example from yesterday: on NBC’s Meet the Press, White House economic adviser Christina Romer was asked if the recession was over. Her first answer was that according to the “official definition … I think we have, at least in terms of GDP, reached that point” — before she then added qualifiers, inviting a follow-up question. When Romer was then asked, “So in your mind, this recession is not over,” she answered, “Of course not. We have — you know, for, for the people on Main Street and throughout this country, they are still suffering. The unemployment rate is still 10 percent.”

Now compare that answer with what Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council, said on ABC’s This Week: “Today, everybody agrees that the recession is over, and the question is what the pace of the expansion is going to be.” (Apparently “everybody” does not include Summers’s colleague Christina Romer.)

This is what is known as sending mixed messages; to have it done by two of the Obama administration’s leading economic spokespersons on a basic economic issue makes it all the more harmful.

The dazzling intellect and multitasking mastery of those who inhabit Obama’s World seem to be producing something less than was advertised. You can add to this the much more serious misplay by Harry Reid on his Medicare buy-in “compromise,” which has been soundly rejected by Senators Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson, two key votes Majority Leader Reid needs if he hopes to pass health-care legislation. Reid’s effort to portray health care as “inevitable” — and his effort to pressure Lieberman into supporting legislation that the Connecticut senator clearly finds unacceptable — has not only failed; it has badly backfired. And as if determined to make a bad tactical mistake even worse, Reid’s aides are now trashing Lieberman as a person who broke his word. That is something that strikes me as not only untrue — I have worked with Senator Lieberman over the years and always found him to be a man of integrity — but bordering on insane. Why do they want to attack the character of a man whose vote they presumably still need?

Governing involves missteps; that is an inherent by-product of exercising power and needs to be factored in when judging an administration. Still, add these incidents to others and you have a picture emerging of an administration and a party that are not only overmatched by events but that also look downright pitiable at times. This is the kind of thing, especially so early in the life of an administration, that can easily become a proxy for a wider inability to govern. Come 2010, voters are likely to extract a cost for this.

As problems continue to mount and the president’s approval ratings continue to sink — the latest Rasmussen poll has Obama’s approval rating down to 44 percent, a new low — there are a lot of different, and damaging, story lines developing around the Obama administration. You can add a lack of basic competence to the list.

To take just one example from yesterday: on NBC’s Meet the Press, White House economic adviser Christina Romer was asked if the recession was over. Her first answer was that according to the “official definition … I think we have, at least in terms of GDP, reached that point” — before she then added qualifiers, inviting a follow-up question. When Romer was then asked, “So in your mind, this recession is not over,” she answered, “Of course not. We have — you know, for, for the people on Main Street and throughout this country, they are still suffering. The unemployment rate is still 10 percent.”

Now compare that answer with what Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council, said on ABC’s This Week: “Today, everybody agrees that the recession is over, and the question is what the pace of the expansion is going to be.” (Apparently “everybody” does not include Summers’s colleague Christina Romer.)

This is what is known as sending mixed messages; to have it done by two of the Obama administration’s leading economic spokespersons on a basic economic issue makes it all the more harmful.

The dazzling intellect and multitasking mastery of those who inhabit Obama’s World seem to be producing something less than was advertised. You can add to this the much more serious misplay by Harry Reid on his Medicare buy-in “compromise,” which has been soundly rejected by Senators Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson, two key votes Majority Leader Reid needs if he hopes to pass health-care legislation. Reid’s effort to portray health care as “inevitable” — and his effort to pressure Lieberman into supporting legislation that the Connecticut senator clearly finds unacceptable — has not only failed; it has badly backfired. And as if determined to make a bad tactical mistake even worse, Reid’s aides are now trashing Lieberman as a person who broke his word. That is something that strikes me as not only untrue — I have worked with Senator Lieberman over the years and always found him to be a man of integrity — but bordering on insane. Why do they want to attack the character of a man whose vote they presumably still need?

Governing involves missteps; that is an inherent by-product of exercising power and needs to be factored in when judging an administration. Still, add these incidents to others and you have a picture emerging of an administration and a party that are not only overmatched by events but that also look downright pitiable at times. This is the kind of thing, especially so early in the life of an administration, that can easily become a proxy for a wider inability to govern. Come 2010, voters are likely to extract a cost for this.

Read Less




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