Bill McGurn has a good piece in the Wall Street Journal today about the double standard in which the media allows the Obama administration to get away with its “saved or created” formulation to describe the success of the stimulus package. But I think yesterday’s announcement by the White House was an indication that it’s starting to sense the American people are getting antsy and want to see actual results from the stimulus.
Keep in mind that on a conference call nearly two weeks ago, Jared Bernstein, who is Joe Biden’s chief economic advisor, said that the stimulus package would create or save another 600,000 jobs in its second 100 days. Yet yesterday, the White House orchestrated a whole P.R. campaign to announce plans to “accelerate implementation” of the stimulus, complete with a cabinet meeting, a new website, and Roadmap to Recovery report, all focused on saving or creating 600,000 jobs — the same number as they were already projecting before all of these plans were announced.
What happened in the intervening time period is that news came out showing the unemployment rate surging to 9.4 percent, with more than 1.6 million jobs having been lost since the passage of the stimulus, so clearly the White House felt it needed to do something. And this leads me to my other point.
Public perception of the stimulus will play a crucial role in the upcoming health care battle. Many Americans following the debate won’t be wading into the policy details. Instead, they’ll be exposed to claims and counterclaims — Obama and Democrats saying their health care legislation will make things better, and Republicans (if they get their message together) most likely arguing that it would have disastrous implications. With both sides throwing statistics back and forth a lot of it will come down to a credibility issue, and whoever the American people trust more will win the debate. Will Americans trust Obama that he can insure everybody, control costs, allow everybody to keep the insurance they have, improve the quality of health care, avert a government takeover of medicine, avoid rationing, and avoid raising taxes on 95 percent of the population? Or will Republicans be able to convince Americans that he’s misleading them, that insuring everybody will require higher taxes, that expanding health care will raise costs unless the government imposes rationing, and that Obama’s plans will inevitably lead to a government takeover? So, if people start to get skeptical about the results of the stimulus package, then it will make it harder for Obama and Democrats to sell the public on their health care claims, and it will be easier for Republicans to attack any legislation.
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