A Clean Slate By 2012

Imagine America without bailouts, with no boiling hot wars, and with a deficit that's trending downward. If all goes according to plan, in two years these matters will be over or ending.

By 2012, the government is scheduled to have killed the TARP bailout program, sold its shares in General Motors and Chrysler, removed some soldiers from Afghanistan, brought nearly all of them home from Iraq, and trimmed the budget deficit. If most or all of these goals can be achieved, President Obama will have a clear record of accomplishment while running for reelection --and a cleaner slate if he wins.

Actually, it should be said that Obama could finally pursue his own full agenda. After all, the policies mentioned were all begun by George W. Bush. The Bush administration (with a Democratic Congress since 2007) created TARP, began bailing out the autos, waged both wars, and added to the deficit.

The bailouts The Troubled Asset Relief Program that sent billions of dollars into banks is scheduled to end as soon as December 31 or as late as October 2010 if extended by Treasury Secretary Geithner. Now that Bank of America said it will soon repay the feds, only two big banks will remain indebted to Washington: Citigroup and GMAC. After they've paid the loans back, the bailout regime will be symbolically dead. Geithner said most of the TARP loans will be recouped by the end of 2010.

The Treasury said it will begin initial public offerings next year for GM and Chrysler stock, which will sell the government's shares of the companies and begin returning them to private ownership in full.

The wars The administration will begin removing troops from Afghanistan in 2011, which will coincide with bringing soldiers home from Iraq. All "combat forces" are supposed to leave Iraq by next September, followed by the departure of all U.S. forces by 2011. 

The deficit That same year the budget deficit should begin to fall as the economy grows, tax revenue increases, and possible budget cuts take effect. Obama has talked about making deficit reduction a priority next year, although he's also said it's less important than slaying double-digit unemployment.   

None of this is to say the economy will be whole again, that peace will befall Iraq and Afghanistan, or that the budget will be in the black. But Obama will be able to say he is moving the country in the right direction, which may be what he needs to say to get reelected.

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Justin Miller was an associate editor at The Atlantic from 2009 to 2011. He is now the homepage editor at New York magazine. More

Justin Miller was a associate editor at The Atlantic. Previously he was an assistant editor at RealClearPolitics, a political reporter in Ohio, and a freelance journalist.

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