Those Obama changes in full

Yesterday was a defining day for the Obama Presidency. He fulfilled the two obvious predictions made on this site – just like George Bush he would spend and borrow more in response to the crisis, and just like George Bush he would send more troops to the Middle East to intensify America’s war there. Obama’s bank package is just another variant of Bush’s largesse to Wall Street.
Yesterday marks the day when he ceases to be in opposition to an unpopular Bush Presidency, and now has to take responsibility. His honeymoon has been short owing to circumstances.From now on people will look at the economy and ask if his policies are working, as he has made so much of his twin packages, one for further bank subsidy and the other to pass more money through state hands. From today the strategy in the war in Afghanistan will be his strategy, even though there is still vagueness about the long term aims of the conflict.
I am pleased he wants to sort out Guantanamo sometime, pleased with his wish to uphold more civil liberties somehow and pleased that sometime he intends to try diplomacy more. What we need is a clearer grip on public spending and borrowing, and a more certain touch at running the US money system to get us over the downturn. It would be a sad legacy for this President of promise, if the main change he sees through is to undermine the excellent work Presidents Clinton and Bush did in reducing welfare dependency.

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9 Comments

  1. Not an Economist
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    “From now on people will look at the economy and ask if his policies are working, as he has made so much of his twin packages, one for further bank subsidy and the other to pass more money through state hands.”

    You are more experienced at this than me but my gut instinct is that for a long time yet people will be more focused on it all being Bush’s fault – that Obama is doing the Republican’s dirty work and clearing up Bush’s mess. And the likes of Pelosi – a somewhat horrible piece of work inmho – will take every opportunity to shout that messge from the hill tops throughout all of America.

    This will go on for some years and it may even get him (Obama) thru the next US election.

  2. oldrightie
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    George Bush, after 9/11, had the toughest job in history. I believe he made an OK fist of it. Unlike Blair and Labour.

  3. Letters From A Tory
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Obama is putting himself in exactly the same position that Brown did: a glitzy, glamorous stimulus package that is heralded as the definitive action against the economic downturn. Sadly, several months later, people start asking why the package didn’t do what is supposed to and begin to turn on their leader.

  4. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Is that what he meant by “change” – same policies just a different face at the White House?

  5. THE ESSEX BOYS
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Regarding the futility of the Afghanistan strategy, we’ve just dug from our files this extract of a letter we wrote to a local MP on 25th March 2007. We believe this approach is still relevant and possible and wonder if others agree, especially in the light of what has happened since…?

    “Regarding the specifics of your article the strategy of destroying the poppy crop is wrong. Clearly there has to be a gradual balance brought to the livelihood of Afghans. One hears there is a universal shortage of opium for legitimate medical purposes so surely it makes sense to invest in buying the total crop, thereby keeping most of it off the streets. Having gained the trust, and dependence, of the Afghan community could we not gradually tailor farming practice and income in a 5-year plan? Whilst satisfying only legitimate world demand for opium Afghanistan could develop other crops with our financial support and become a long-term trading partner with all those benefits and savings in human life and resources. The Chinese are already showing in Africa that making trade, not war or giving handouts, will best help cut third world poverty. And in the opinion of most observers of history Afghanistan will never be bombed into submission in any event!
    Too simplistic a view?”

    • chris southern
      Posted February 18, 2009 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      The obvious stabalization of afghanistan is helping them grow their poppy (opium) crops as well as helping their general agriculture.
      Medical services around the globe benefit, the afghanistan people have an income and can support their own food production far better.

      The problem is that countries are being invaded for their natural resources, not to help the people.
      Just look at who profits from the natural resources in occupied eastern countries after an invasion, it’s not rocket science.

      Once Obama deals with those issues he will start to sort out the problems with Americas foreighn issues (not all are a bad)

      As for the stimulus packages, once on the wrong path, it’s very difficult to change direction and Obama didn’t have a say in the path that he was put on, only how he chooses to now follow it.

  6. THE ESSEX BOYS
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    On the broader front of Obama’s opening month he is getting much flak here as well as in the US of course. We admit here to speaking from the position of some bias as we backed him from the day of his address to the 2004 Democratic convention!

    Our view is that only in an economy as large as, and with the ‘can do’ attitude of, the USA could this enormous package work and for the PM to bask in any refelected optimism that he can do an Obama here – as he will – is nuts.

    On the Obama credit side we understand that Reagan passed his first finance bill only in June (81) and Clinton in August (93) so the requisite urgency has been shown. It seems there’s enough in it for the whole 4-year term and maybe it’s smart thinking to have gained early approval in most areas he wants to tackle so the full term can be spent in DOING rather than talking.

    Contrast this with the approach of our government who have introduced an initiative a day with scarcely any follow-through on any.

    We’re still inclined to give Obama a chance, whilst admitting that it really is a mighty big one he’s taking!

  7. rugfish
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Well Arnie just made one in five public sector workers redundant in California so he’s made a start with cut backs by adding I don’t know how many more to welfare and taking them out of the spending loop in the process. No doubt Obama’s package will be useful for putting them back to work and paying their mortgage bills whilst he’s doing it.

    Great economics eh?

  8. Steve Tierney
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    The really sad thing is that, as the first black president, Obama is going to be remembered as the president who oversaw the economic collapse of America. It’s got nothing to do with his colour, of course, its his ridiculous policies, but that’s not what the history books will remember.

    The ‘fiscal stimulus’ of “borrow a ridiculously large amount of money and pour it down a giant black hole” is going to ruin a great nation.

    Britain has been following similar paths and is in dire straits, but unlike the U.S.A. we aren’t ‘trapped’ by our current leader’s overblown reputation and fanatic popularity (quite the opposite.) There is at least SOME chance that a new leader may start taking the very dramatic course that will avert our ruin.

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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