The Sudden Optimism

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on April 11, 2009

Look who’s full of sunshine these days:

President Barack Obama declared Friday that the slumping economy has begun to show “glimmers of hope,” but cautioned that it remains severely stressed and will require lots more work to turn it around.

Once criticized for talking too pessimistically about the economy, Obama is highlighting the positive.

“We’re starting to see glimmers of hope across the economy,” the president said after a White House meeting with his economic team, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and top economic adviser Larry Summers. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke also participated in the session.

This is probably an accurate estimate, and it is to be welcomed. However, we ought to note that the economy’s turnaround is taking place even before the overwhelming majority–if any–of the stimulus projects are deemed shovel-ready.

Why is this important to point out? Because the Obama Administration is obviously setting itself up to boast and brag in advance of the 2010 and 2012 elections that it brought the economy out of the doldrums thanks to a stimulus package that the overwhelming majority of Republicans opposed. This is just not true. It will take an exceedingly long time before stimulus projects are shovel-ready and can begin and by that time, the economy should already be expanding. Quite simply, there is no way that the Administration should be allowed to get away with claiming credit for a natural upturn in the business cycle.

We all remember that the Clinton Administration boasted of having ended the recession that supposedly was going on until the last day of the Presidency of George H.W. Bush; this despite the fact that the National Bureau of Economic Research deemed that the recession had ended in March, 1991–22 months before Bill Clinton was sworn in as President. No one combated the Clinton Administration’s claims, thus allowing the Administration and the Democratic party to pose as economic saviors when in fact they did nothing to be able to claim responsibility for the expansion in GDP that we saw in the 1990s. The Obama Administration should not be allowed to get away with the same trick.

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