Tuesday, May 03, 2016

President Obama Weighs His Economic Legacy

Eight years after the financial crisis, unemployment is at 5 percent, deficits are down and G.D.P. is growing. Why do so many voters feel left behind? The president has a theory.

By ANDREW ROSS SORKIN, NYT Magazine
APRIL 28, 2016

Two months ago, across an assembly-room table in a factory in Jacksonville, Fla., President Barack Obama was talking to me about the problem of political capital. His efforts to rebuild the U.S. economy from the 2008 financial crisis were being hit from left, right and center. And yet, by his own assessment, those efforts were vastly underappreciated. “I actually compare our economic performance to how, historically, countries that have wrenching financial crises perform,” he said. “By that measure, we probably managed this better than any large economy on Earth in modern history.”

It was a notably grand claim, especially given the tenor in which presidential candidates of both parties had taken to criticizing the state of the American economy — “Many are still barely getting by,” Hillary Clinton said, while Donald Trump said that “we’re a third-world nation.” Asked if he was frustrated by all the criticism, Obama insisted that he wasn’t, at least not personally. “It has frustrated me only insofar as it has shaped the political debate,” he said. “We were moving so fast early on that we couldn’t take victory laps. We couldn’t explain everything we were doing. I mean, one day we’re saving the banks; the next day we’re saving the auto industry; the next day we’re trying to see whether we can have some impact on the housing market.”

The result, he said, was that he lacked the political capital to do more. As his presidency nears its end, this has become an increasingly common refrain from Obama, who, despite his prodigious skills as an orator, has come to seem more confident about his achievements than about his ability to promote them. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”

(More here.)

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