Time magazine's award-winning Senior National Correspondent, Michael Grunwald, attracted a roomful of people today at DC's Center for American Progress, for a discussion and signing of his new book, The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012).
The bottom line, Obama's Recovery and Investment Act, passed a month after he took office, is most of the time dismissed as an invisible "stimulus" that accomplished nothing. Is the real bottom line that the Obama administration's PR is so bad that no one realizes Grunwald's assertions?
This cocksure moderate's timely support, which he calls a revisionist history, credits Obama's $800 billion stimulus with rescuing this country from a depression.
It launched a thousand projects, the change promised by Obama the candidate, said Grunwald, a microcosm of his achievements and a surefire barometer of the right wing's enmity--those people whom the author laughingly claimed have yet to accept the New Deal [as anything short of too much government, though their grandparents undoubtedly welcomed it].
The new New Deal was the biggest energy bill in history, he continued, with an absurd aside that the amount of damage to the Gulf by the BP oil spill has been grossly exaggerated.
He listed targets of the bill: wind and solar energy, electronic vehicles, cleaner coal, green energy in general, and much more, a "huge story in plain view."
Huge progress has been made at the infrastructure level, said Grunwald, and tax cuts have been accomplished for most of the workforce.
Economists agree that the act prevented a free fall, with the biggest improvement in the area of jobs in the last thirty years--50 percent bigger than New Deal accomplishments, with dollar figures adjusted accordingly. But the changes aren't sexy. They involve sewer and pothole repairs and have spread wind and solar farms throughout the country.
Obama has laughed that the bill is less popular than he is and that he would not have been elected in "good times," recruited merely to clean out Bush II's Augean stables, an "economic cataclysm."
Grunwald specified that the forty-fourth president is not about new ideas, which differ from change per se. His idealistic goal of post-partisanship has gone the way of led balloons. I still cringe when I think of all those turned-down dinner invitations.
In the midst of a comparison between the president and his 2008 opponent, Hillary Clinton, the author directed Obama's censure to Beltway politics and Hillary's toward the GOP.
Back to his theme, what the benighted stimulus has accomplished, Grunwald further specified the proliferation of digital medical data and "smart grids" that have so benefited the system; the decline in the number of homeless people; the clean energy revolution; the rapid spread of solar energy--all untainted by the corruption that was a household word in the days of Bush 43 who, I read, won't even be attended this year's Republican National Convention.
The author calls himself the "only guy who wrote anything positive" about the stimulus, no passionate liberal himself but quite middle-of-the-roader, he later told me.
In response to questioning from CAP's president Neera Tanden and then the audience, Grunwald called the greatest failure of the legislation the still-burgeoning deficit, a GOP favorite preoccupation. Nor did the stimulus "sell." The public complains about all the road construction interfering with their daily commute; the construction of a new building for DHS was labeled overspending on furniture.
Unemployment did not descend below 8 percent and Congress was less cooperative than Obama had hoped. He about-faced toward the ACA and other agenda items. As I noted above, the president would be well advised to hire Grunwald and other heavyweights to enhance his public image. The $8 billion funding has been the most scrutinized distribution ever, with every cent accounted for.
According to HHS Secretary Katherine Sebelius, the stimulus was the foundation of the Affordable Care Act.
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