The Spectacle Blog

Obama on the Economy: We Didn’t Know How Bad We’d Let It Get

By on 12.14.11 | 10:55AM

Today President Obama floated a new excuse for the sad state of the economy: 

President Barack Obama said Tuesday he wishes he knew the full extent of the economic crisis when he took office, if only so he could have let Americans know just how tough the coming years would be.

"I think we understood that it was bad, but we didn't know how bad it was," Obama said in an interview with KIRO in Seattle. "I think I could have prepared the American people for how bad this was going to be, had we had a sense of that."

Obama is correct in the sense that, when he took office, the official economic figures badly overstated the strength of the economy at the time. In other words, he was dealing with a more severe recession that he or his advisers understood. 

Nevertheless, it makes no sense for him now to maintain both that his policies have worked and that the severity of the recession surprised him, because those policies were supposed to prevent the recession from becoming too bad. 

If the five million green jobs Obama promised had materialized, the economy wouldn't be as bad as it is today. If the stimulus -- including Cash for Clunkers and the homebuyer tax credit -- had worked, the economy wouldn't be as bad as it is today. And so on. 

Obama is the one who claimed the technocratic ability to control economic outcomes, and now he is saying that those abilities were thwarted because the outcomes were worse than he thought they would be. 

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