Time For Some Jawboning

In Tech Central Station, Patrick Hynes writes that it’s time to put the Bully Pulpit to work:

President Bush needs to learn a lesson his father never did. Unless a president — especially a Republican president — talks constantly with the American people about the economy, he will be seen by the public as doing nothing about it. This is especially true when the news is filtered through a hostile press corps. And while doing nothing about the economy may at times be the best way to strengthen it, this view is not shared by the majority of Americans.

There is another problem, as well. President Bush’s hallmark initiative this year was supposed to be Social Security reform. The public perception is that these efforts are going nowhere. This is a big problem for the administration because President Bush has built his push for Social Security reform on the idea that the system, and therefore Americans’ retirement security and the nation’s long-term fiscal health, is staring down the barrel of a crisis. President Bush toured sixty cities in sixty days (and even more, subsequently) in a campaign to convince Americans of this crisis and sell his plan to fix it. Unfortunately, while the majority of Americans is still unsure of the cure, a growing majority has come to acknowledge the disease. According to a mid-June CBS News poll, fully 92% of Americans believe Social Security is either currently in a “crisis,” currently in “serious trouble,” or currently in “some trouble.” Moreover, 57% of respondents think Social Security’s problems are “so serious they need to be fixed now.” The president has exhausted his political capital convincing people their economic future is doomed.

Of course, President Bush’s political opponents are always available and willing to poor-mouth the economy. When he first entered Washington, all the talk was of recession. That ended quickly, but Democrats clutched on to the budget deficit, caused of course by President Bush’s tax cuts “for the rich.” Then it was unemployment; the worst economy since Hoover, they told us. But the jobs situation improved during the 2004 campaign, so the “disappearing middle class” became the freak-out du jour. The president won the majority of middle class votes, so that wouldn’t do. So the falling dollar would have us all standing in soup lines in our barrel-and-suspender ensembles. But then the dollar rose. So today it’s income inequality and the trade deficit with China that spells certain doom. In an economy so big and so diverse, some grim-sounding statistic will always pop, some indicator will always lag. And a minority party, desperate for power, will only too gladly exaggerate their meaning.

The White House has to speak with the American people about the state of the economy honestly, soothingly, confidently



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