President Obama sat down with some progressive bloggers yesterday for a Q&A, and this was one of his more puzzling responses.
I mean, if folks think that we could have gotten Ben Nelson, Arlen Specter and Susan Collins to vote for additional stimulus beyond the $700 billion that we got, then I would just suggest you weren’t in the meetings.
This notion that somehow I could have gone and made the case around the country for a far bigger stimulus because of the magnitude of the crisis, well, we understood the magnitude of the crisis. We didn’t actually, I think, do what Franklin Delano Roosevelt did, which was basically wait for six months until the thing had gotten so bad that it became an easier sell politically because we thought that was irresponsible. We had to act quickly.
Obama’s narrative doesn’t exactly jibe with reporting about the stimulus.
Summers did not include Romer’s $1.2-trillion projection [for the stimulus]. The memo argued that the stimulus should not be used to fill the entire output gap; rather, it was “an insurance package against catastrophic failure.” […]He [Summers] believed that filling the output gap through deficit spending was important, but that a package that was too large could potentially shift fears from the current crisis to the long-term budget deficit, which would have an unwelcome effect on the bond market. In the end, Summers made the case for the eight-hundred-and-ninety-billion-dollar option.
Larry Summers’ conclusions about the size of the stimulus can’t be blamed on President Snowe. And it’s much closer to the $787B the administration finally got than the $1.2T Romer and people like Paul Krugman were recommmending.
The president’s willingness to ask for too little was, it turns out, a huge strategic error. It allows his opponents to argue that the Democrats had what they wanted, which then failed. If the president had failed to get what he demanded, he could argue that the outcome was not his fault.
When the stimulus passed, the White House celebrated. There was not the slightest hint that Nelson, Snowe, and Collins were hampering the recovery and putting the country in jeopardy. For Obama now to insist it was their fault that it was too small doesn’t ring true (not to mention that they could’ve passed a larger bill via reconciliation), and in any event, just makes him look weak.
But I really think the President’s remarks about FDR are just bizarre.
Here is a time-line of the “100 Days.”
- March 4
- Inauguration Day. Franklin Delano Roosevelt becomes President of the United States.
- March 5
- The President proclaims four-day Bank Holiday with the suspension of banking transactions and gold and currency exports.
- March 9
- Hundred Days Congressional session begins.
- Congress passes the Emergency Banking Act.
- March 15
- Congress passes the Economy Act
- March 31
- Congress passes the Reforestation Relief Act, (establishing the Civilian Conservation Corps).
- April 19
- The President announces US departure from the gold standard.
- May 12
- Congress passes the Emergency Farm Mortgage Act.
- Congress passes the Federal Emergency Relief Act.
- The President signs the Agricultural Adjustment Act.
- May 18
- Congress establishes the Tennessee Valley Authority.
- May 27
- Congress passes the Federal Securities Act.
- June 6
- Congress passes the National Employment System Act.
- June 13
- Congress passes the Home Owners Refinancing Act.
- June 16
- The end of the Hundred Days session.
- Congress passes the National Industrial Recovery Act, (setting up the National Recovery Administration), the Farm Credit Act, and the Banking Act of 1933.
Now that’s some change we can believe in — all in about 3 months! And that doesn’t include the repeal of Prohibition.
The merits of the legislation aside, it’s more than a little jarring to hear a Democratic President accuse FDR of acting irresponsibly in the face of the Great Depression. Moreover, had the Obama administration acted more like Roosevelt’s, they would not be in the situation they find themselves in.