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How President Obama handled the recovery

Adriene Hill Mar 2, 2012

Adriene Hill: Jobs numbers are up; the market keeps chugging ahead. And some economists credit President Obama’s stimulus plan for that improvement. A new book by Noam Schieber argues things would be even better if the White House had done more. The book is called “The Escape Artists: How Obama’s Team Fumbled the Recovery.”

Noam joins us now. Good morning.

Noam Scheiber: Good morning.

Hill: The subtitle of your book is that President Obama “fumbled” the economic recovery. But today the Dow is near 13,000; unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in three years; the auto industry is thriving. How is that “fumbled?”

Scheiber: I thought a lot about the subtitle for the book. The general thought process was not a catastrophe; in fact, they did a very good job averting catastrophe. This could have been a depression. But it was a very long three years before this recovery actually picked up steam, and there were a number of mistakes made along the way which I describe in the book.

Hill: Now, what are those mistakes that they made? What do you think?

Scheiber: The early mistake was aiming a little too low on the initial stimulus. Now, the suggestion isn’t that, had they just come out for a $1.8 trillion stimulus, that they would have gotten it. But I think if you understand better that you’re dealing with that size of whole, you want to aim on the high side rather than the low side.

Then over the next couple of years, there was a real stalemate within the administration over whether you pursue deficit reduction. And another group of advisors, they thought: really, we’ve not done enough to stimulate this economy and we need to do more. These two camps were at each other’s throats for a long period of time, and it resulted in stasis and stalemate.

And they really never got their act together and I think that was very costly. The president himself was very frustrated by that.

Hill: What do you make of the president’s other recent policy proposals?

Scheiber: I think that two things are clear. One, that he wants to introduce more fairness. He wants affluent people to pay their fair share and does not feel like they’ve been doing that. And two, he realizes that we have a kind of long-term fiscal problem and realizes that we need to fix that. On that he’s been less specific, but I don’t necessarily blame him because everything is subject to what happens in November with the presidential election.

Hill: Noam Scheiber is author of “The Escape Artists.” Thanks.

Scheiber: Thank you, I appreciate it.

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