How did Obama's economic team fare in its first, recession-drenched, partisanship-soaked year on the job? Professor Brad DeLong hands out a grade of B+/A-/"exceeds expectations." Here's what he writes on the report card:
I was just about to write a year-end reflection in which I was going to say that the Obama economic policy team had exceeded expectations--a sizeable fiscal stimulus, a second round now moving through the congress, victory in the intellectual war over whether the government should and can stabilize the economy, blocking any protectionist moves, key support for what looks to be a successful (if moderate Republican) health care reform, key support for ongoing climate policy--a solid B+/A-. The major problems are (a) that the macroeconomic situation turned out to be much more dire than we thought last November-December, (b) that financial regulatory reform looks to be a flop--too many members of congress bought by bankers--but IMHO Geithner and company played out a weak hand that Paulson had taken care to leave them, and (c) that the fact that private banks have profited while the government has not from the bailouts means that there is now no more ammunition should things turn south once more.
History will judge better than my December reflexes, but I'm nodding to all of this paragraph. Still, demons lurk. Financial regulation shouldn't blow up in Congress, but it could. A double-dip recession probably won't happen, but it could. Unemployment should gradually begin to sink into the single digits, but it could bob around 10 percent for more than a year. Which is to say, I think the Obama administration has done a commendable job battling with the multi-headed hydra of a recession in its first eleven months. But history takes a long view, and we don't yet have the right perspective.
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