Here's what President Obama would want to tell you about his economic plans if he had a chance to sit down with you at your kitchen table.
Some friends I was talking with last night, all Obama supporters, were complaining that the president's main failing is not effectively explaining how much he had accomplished, given the difficulties we have faced the last several years. Even President Obama agrees he could do better in this regard, but I actually don't think the president's main problem has been ineffective communication.
His main problem is more substantive. The economy is still in bad shape, and the steps the administration has taken to deal with economic and other problems have not always been popular, and don't seem to have produced the results people might have been expecting. That doesn't mean these steps were wrong. It means the president took actions he thought were right, even though some of them were unpopular, and even though it is going to take some time for these actions to bear fruit. Take three main examples:
The bank bailouts (begun during the Bush administration but continued by Obama and Geithner) might have saved our financial system from total collapse, but to most people that looks like a reward to the scoundrels who caused our economic problems in the first place. So Obama is not going to get much credit for rescuing our financial system, no matter how he explains it.
The stimulus might have saved millions of jobs and left the economy much better than it otherwise would have been. But how are people supposed to compare what is, with something worse that might otherwise have been? All people can see is what exists, and that still isn't good enough.
The Affordable Care Act for the first time in history establishes the principle that all Americans are entitled to affordable care, but its main provisions haven't even kicked in yet, and it asks Americans to step up and pay for this new system. It's no wonder a lot of people are skeptical.
The Obama administration has an amazing record of substantive accomplishment, but people are just beginning to see the results. You can't sugarcoat that. You just have to count on most people's good sense in understanding that this president has made the best of a bad situation, and put us on a strong foundation for moving forward. Are we grown-up enough to understand that message?