Wednesday, December 16, 2009

While We Were Out...

The health care debate has justifiably sucked all the air from the room for what seems like years now.  And in doing so, Nate Silver points out, liberals may be missing some of the still proud moments of 2009 (and -- fingers crossed -- 2010), policy wise.  Specifically, in economic terms:

Perhaps, if the unemployment rate has improved by sometime next year, with the economy adding something like 300,000 or 400,000 per month, then liberals will start to more vigorously defend the White House's economic policy, while the conservative critique will be somewhat mollified. But I'm not holding my breath. Liberals (and certainly conservatives) have tended to shortchange the successes that the White House has had thus far, and I would expect them to continue to do so.

This is for understandable reasons: the financial crisis was extremely traumatic; the economy is a complex system that does not lend itself well to snap judgments and punditry, and many liberals have concerns about the economy (such as the increasing inequality of wealth and income) that extend far beyond the recession of 2007-09. Nor, partly through their own doing, have the optics been especially favorable to the White House: the jobs-creating effects of the stimulus have tended to be swimming upstream relative to the underlying conditions of the labor market; there were some notable PR failures like the AIG bonus "scandal", and the White House has been strangely reluctant to embrace populist rhetoric at a time when it would square well with the political zeitgeist.

At the end of the day, however, the piling-on in liberal circles does not match the objective evidence about the economy. And if it sets any precedent, you may have a robust recovery by the middle of next year, but with neither the White House's conservative nor liberal critics willing to give them much credit for it. Voters may stay away from Democrats as a result, pushing the country toward more conservative economic policy and ensuring that liberal critics of the economy aren't lacking for greivances any time soon.

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