If you ask congressional Republicans, the current economic strategy coming out of the White House has been a complete, utter, abject, indisputable failure. It’s been almost two years and unemployment is steady at 9.5 percent, with sluggish private-sector growth. Clearly the current course is faulty and a new direction is needed. Such was the theme of the Republicans’ "Pledge to America" that leaders unveiled in rural Virginia.
The economic picture is, of course, a bit more complicated, and includes so many variables that no single economist can accurately identify where the economy is—or where it’s going.
While Republicans are quick to declare failure in hopes doing so will land them back in power, the White House and the president’s party have labored to explain that it took the Bush administration and a Republican-controlled Congress eight years to dig the current hole and that the least that President Obama and Democrats deserve are four years to dig us out. In other words, give them more time.
In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos this week, former president Bill Clinton addressed the time issue: “Give us two more years,” he said. “Don't go back to the policies that dug the hole … If we don't do better, you can vote against us all …Vote against us all if it's not better.’ ”
Will the argument work? More Democrats are getting on board, including Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. “The economy is hurting people, but I think it’s producing a leaner and more efficient economy,” he said at a breakfast Friday hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. “We’ll have a financial system in 2012 that will be leaner and work better.”
Asking for two more years could be dangerous for two reasons. For one, asking people to double down on a policy that's been slow to show serious success effectively doubles down on one’s credibility—and time-estimation skills. But also, if getting two more years doesn’t do the trick, it’ll be nearly impossible in 2012 for President Obama to ask for four more.
Yet for a Democratic Party facing such a tough electoral climate, and considering new signs that the economy is on the upswing—including the official end of the recession and impending stimulus efforts targeting infrastructure investment and small-business hiring—it may well be a gamble worth taking.