Analysis: Obama Takes Possession Of Economy

With four simple words — "Give it to me!" — President Barack Obama took possession of the economy.

For months, the White House and Obama's economic team have laid the economic crisis at the feet of President George W. Bush. But there comes a point in a presidency when inheritance becomes ownership. Obama made that pivot Tuesday in Michigan, the state suffering the worst unemployment in the nation.

"I love these folks who helped get us in this mess and then suddenly say, 'Well, this is Obama's economy,'" the president said in a pointed deviation from his prepared text. "That's fine. Give it to me!"

It was a defiant moment, reminiscent of Bush's own "Bring 'em on!" taunt in 2003 to militants in Iraq.

Like Bush's brash challenge, Obama's could haunt him, too. It's a calculated risk that confronts his critics head-on and casts him as an activist, on-the-job president.

"My job is to solve problems, not to stand on the sidelines and harp and gripe," he said Tuesday, his sleeves rolled up, barely disguising his targets as congressional Republicans.

Still, most economists and Obama's own advisers foresee a slow economic recovery. The president himself conceded Tuesday that unemployment, already at a 26-year high, will likely "tick up for several months." Republicans see the economy as Obama's Achilles' heel come next year's elections, and they have found a political vulnerability in the continued rise in unemployment despite a $787 billion economic stimulus that Obama pushed through Congress in February.

In choosing Michigan to attach his name to the economy, Obama picked a state whose 14.1 percent unemployment rate could linger as evidence of policy failure. As home to the U.S. auto industry, it could also stand as a symbol of one of his first economic successes. Both General Motors and Chrysler have emerged in surprisingly swift fashion from bankruptcy protection proceedings that were imposed by the Obama administration.

"Remember, folks said there was no way they could do it?" Obama told his audience in hard-hit Warren, Mich. "They've gotten it done already, in record time, far faster than anybody thought possible."

After a week spent overseas, the feisty, confrontational approach aims to regain the agenda from his critics. In one bold step this week, the Obama administration singled out Sen. Jon Kyl, a member of the Senate Republican leadership, for calling for an end to economic stimulus spending. Using Obama's Cabinet members as muscle, the White House on Tuesday made public letters from four department secretaries listing transportation, housing, Indian education and other projects in Kyl's home state that they said would be eliminated if the senator had his way. The letter was addressed to Arizona's Republican governor, Jan Brewer.

At the same time, Obama is appealing for patience. In his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday and in a newspaper opinion piece, Obama argued that the stimulus program was designed as a two-year plan and that it had already halted the economic free fall. It hasn't helped Obama, however, that the jobless rate now stands at 9.5 percent, even though his economic team initially predicted that the stimulus would prevent unemployment from going higher than 8 percent.

Obama and his advisers say the recession turned out to be worse than anticipated when they made that forecast in January. Still, 2 million jobs have been lost since Congress passed the stimulus package.

"I want the president's economic stimulus to work, but guess what? It's not happening right now," Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., said Tuesday, voicing a common GOP refrain. "I don't even think we have Wendy's jobs anymore. Where's the beef? Where's the jobs?"

Obama's unflinching embrace of his economic policies means he now is responsible for their consequences. If the free fall is now in check, as he claims, then the economy can no longer be Bush's legacy alone.

What's more, even amid indicators that show the economic plunge is slowing, unemployment in recent recessions has been slow to recover as quickly as the rest of the economy. And jobs are the clearest yardstick by which the public measures success. For Obama and his fellow Democrats, the danger lies in unemployment rates that remain high in time for next year's congressional elections, or in a slow recovery that peters out and leads back into a recession.

Obama has already taken ownership of the nation's foreign policy. In March, he announced a new approach in Afghanistan that included sending an additional 17,000 combat troops. Marines have just kicked off an offensive in Taliban strongholds in the south of the country. And two weeks ago, American troops in Iraq handed over security urban areas to Iraqi security forces, the first step toward meeting Obama's pledge to end an unpopular war.

Now, just days shy of the symbolic six-month anniversary of his presidency, Obama has laid claim to the full measure of the job. When it comes to the economy, no one — certainly not his Republican critics — is going to keep him from taking it.


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  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Jul 20, 2009 at 10:18 AM
    Retitle this; "Obama takes possession or our money". This is more fitting of what he is doing.
  • by To Wanda on Jul 18, 2009 at 12:57 AM
    When obama gets through,thats all you are going to have in your pocket is change!
  • by Bob Location: Belhaven on Jul 15, 2009 at 06:26 PM
    The "one" and his minions (congress) are like teenagers with their daddys credit card. They spend and spend with no regard to what Daddy has to do to pay for it! It's so funny, the Libs have been crying for so long "it's Former President Bush's" fault that they actually believe. As always they don't let the facts get in the way. Frustrated, OSOC, CCC have said it as well as educated people can. To life long Demo, how can an employeer hire more people who spend money, when you and your kind are taxing him/her into bankruptcy! The promise of getting something for nothing was a strong motivator, but the big "Tax the Rich" rhetoric has now filtered down to the middle and lower class. Enjoy you Stimulus money! Have any of you gotten any yet? They forget History don/t they, see Moe's comments! Well you got the Change you wanted, enjoy!, while standing in the bread line!!!
  • by SEVERLY FRUSTRATED Location: NC on Jul 15, 2009 at 02:06 PM
    I just don't understand why this is so hard to figure out. I mean, does Obama not have his own budget plan for his personal finances? It isn't that hard to figure out that you CANT SPEND MORE MONEY TO BALANCE ANY BUDGET!!!! Anyone who thinks you can is ignorant. It is common sense. Let's say you have a personal finance where you are in a $300 deficit per month. How are you going to fix that problem? Certainly NOT by spending more money. You already don't make enough money per month as a household to pay all of your bills, yet you are going to go out and spend frivolously? I DONT HARDLY THINK SO!!! However, Obama is doing essentially that. This is like being $300 in deficit every month already and buying a 5 million dollar house. I am just curious, how many people who voted for him think this makes ANY sense?? It is not hard to figure this out, so I don't know why he spent so much money, and why he wants to spend EVEN MORE MONEY by trying to get ANOTHER "stimulous" package passed.
  • by Lavon Location: Goldsboro on Jul 15, 2009 at 01:42 PM
    I love President Obama!
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Jul 15, 2009 at 01:39 PM
    Im, Derek has claimed that this is "always" Bushs fault. My 401K didn't take a hit until the dems (which I am registered) took over both houses. I am pretty sure that made ole George a lame duck. This was no doubt both houses of government that did this to the US. This is when they got the silver credit card and when Obama was elected, they got the gold card. Wanda, please listen carefully, again, one more time, we do not hate Obama, we don't like his policy and we don't like the change we have in our pockets. Between Bevs Change and Obamas Change, we don't seem to have enough for them.
  • by DC Location: Kinston on Jul 15, 2009 at 12:53 PM
    Why did you suddenly change the photo from the dome of the rock to the seal of the president?
  • by MrT Location: LaNC on Jul 15, 2009 at 12:31 PM
    I should have known that all the lost sheep on here would go to making excuses for Obama.It's his baby now. Anything that hapeens from this day forward is HIS FAULT!
  • by lm Location: nc on Jul 15, 2009 at 11:31 AM
    OSOC - Thanks for the correction. I did forget to mention that Obama is pushing very hard to pass a bunch of stuff that is putting this country towards oblivion. Yes, I agree that they are passing things without reading them at all. That enough is scary to me.
  • by Wanda Location: Kenansville on Jul 15, 2009 at 10:56 AM
    I support the Obama Administration. For all of you HATERs, CHANGE IS GOOD!
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