When President Barack Obama takes the stage this week at the Democratic National Convention, inside Charlotte’s aptly chosen Bank of America Arena, he owes us an explanation for why the economy has been working so much better for financial behemoths than it has for ordinary people.
He needs to enhance our understanding of why, nearly four years after he moved into the White House, millions of Americans are still threatened with the loss of their own homes. He needs to bring us up to speed on why tens of millions of working-age people are scrambling to find adequately paying jobs.
He may well have a decent explanation to give us. He didn’t create this bleak economy. He inherited it from a long line of irresponsible stewards: Ronald Reagan, who introduced the ruinous idea that prosperity comes via tax cuts; Bill Clinton, who allowed Wall Street to turn itself into Las Vegas-on-the-Hudson; George W. Bush, who made these problems immeasurably worse, while tacking on a couple of calamitous wars, financed with debt.
Obama stepped in just as this disaster reached its worst proportions. He confronted the immediate catastrophe of the Great Recession, plus the financial crisis — all layered atop a quarter-century of stagnant wage growth. That’s a lot of problems to fix. One can reasonably argue that Obama managed it as well as anyone might have, and particularly in the face of obstructionist Republicans in Congress, who sabotaged recovery in pursuit of electoral gain.
The roughly $800 billion package of stimulus spending measures that Obama unleashed made the job market better than it would have been without this infusion. That may not make for good campaign fodder — “Less Awful Than Otherwise!” — but it’s still true."