The president’s “major speech” on the economy yesterday did not cover new ground. It did not provide any fresh programs for stimulating the economy. Yet there was something new there: the president gave the most exhaustive explanation yet of his plan to reboot the American economy.
There was a lot more there than “glimmers of hope.”
Here’s what I mean. He was speaking directly to the American people, not announcing new plans, but selling what he has already done. He fiercely supported the bank bailouts. He acknowledged more difficult and “unpopular” decisions are ahead. He chastised his critics point by point. And he told American in great detail why he is tackling painful and politically-sensitive problems at the very same time as this financial crisis.
“I want every American to know that each action we take and each policy we pursue is driven by a larger vision of America's future – a future where sustained economic growth creates good jobs and rising incomes; a future where prosperity is fueled not by excessive debt, or reckless speculation, or fleeing profit, but is instead built by skilled, productive workers; by sound investments that will spread opportunity at home and allow this nation to lead the world in the technologies, the innovations, and discoveries that will shape the 21st century. That's the America I see."
It’s a reboot of the American economy. He said it could take many years.
I’ll admit, when the White House handlers bill something as a “major speech” but then add that there will be no new policies or initiatives, we reporters get a little skeptical. Is this just a chance to massage a message?
But in this case, I think the president made news. He is trying to turn the page on the crisis, and moving it into the next chapter, even though there was nothing really new in there. It comes as the very time when the shock of this crisis is wearing off, and the reality is setting in. People are starting to make decisions with their money not out of panic, but with actual information. We are settling into a reality that the economy is ailing and in a way, we are getting used to it. We can’t see the first green shoots of confidence until that feeling of economic shock and awe, fades. The president’s tone, reflected that.
On the same day, the Fed chief, Ben Bernanke noted “tentative signs” the steep decline in the economy “may be slowing.” The Fed chief said, “A leveling out of economic activity is the first step in our recovery.”
Enter stage left: horrible retail sales numbers for March. Prepare for months ahead of cautious optimism from policymakers eager to get confidence growing, tempered by ugly economic numbers.
John, Kiran and I have been rocking out this week in the bump shots to the Beatles’ classic “Tax Man….” as part of our series on taxes in honor of tax day today.
I have always said how you feel about taxes depends on your politics. The Tax Foundation just released survey results that seem to back that up. Here it is from the group’s release:
There are sharp differences between adults of different political parties and philosophies.
Republicans are more likely to say that their federal income tax bill was too high (62 percent) than Democrats (51 percent). Independents come in at 61 percent. Two-thirds of conservatives also say their federal income tax is too high (66 percent) compared to just over half of moderates (55 percent). For liberals, more people say their income tax bill is about right (45 percent) than those who say that it is too high (44 percent). Yet, when asked how much one would be willing to pay for all services provided by governments in one year, the results are counterintuitive. Republicans are willing to pay an average of $9,985 compared to $7,616 for Democrats. Independents respond with an average of $5,805. Moderates are willing to pay an average of $8,171 with liberals coming in at $7,714 and conservatives coming in at $6,668.