We Need A President, And We Need Him Now
The hits just keep on coming. Yesterday, it was a report that retailers suffered their worst November in 30 years. Today, it's that the same month saw the worst job losses in 34 years. Yesterday, Paul Krugman had these gloomy words:
So it may be hard for stimulus to get much traction until late 2009 — and that’s even if Congress goes along, which may be a problem given all the bad analysis and disinformation out there.
So here’s what I’m wondering: will it, in fact, even be possible to pull the economy out of its nosedive before unemployment goes into double digits? I’m starting to wonder.
The good news is that we will have some national leadership, next year. The bad news is that we need it now. It is customary for an incoming president to defer to the outgoing president, but this is no time for customary deference. The outgoing president is the worst ever, he is doing absolutely nothing to help the imploding economy, and things continue to get worse, and likely will continue to do so until this administration is over.
As Krugman wrote, a couple weeks ago:
There is, however, another and more disturbing parallel between 2008 and 1932 — namely, the emergence of a power vacuum at the height of the crisis. The interregnum of 1932-1933, the long stretch between the election and the actual transfer of power, was disastrous for the U.S. economy, at least in part because the outgoing administration had no credibility, the incoming administration had no authority and the ideological chasm between the two sides was too great to allow concerted action. And the same thing is happening now.
It’s true that the interregnum will be shorter this time: F.D.R. wasn’t inaugurated until March; Barack Obama will move into the White House on Jan. 20. But crises move faster these days.
How much can go wrong in the two months before Mr. Obama takes the oath of office? The answer, unfortunately, is: a lot. Consider how much darker the economic picture has grown since the failure of Lehman Brothers, which took place just over two months ago. And the pace of deterioration seems to be accelerating.
Some Democratic leaders are now openly attempting to push Barack Obama to step up, now. Jim Kuhnhenn of the Associated Press has this:
(House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass.) who has been dealing with both the bailout of the financial industry and a proposed rescue of Detroit automakers, said Obama needs to play a more significant role on economic issues.
"At a time of great crisis with mortgage foreclosures and autos, he says we only have one president at a time," Frank said. "I'm afraid that overstates the number of presidents we have. He's got to remedy that situation."
Pithy, as always. And desperately true.
This country has already declared that it has one leader. Bush still has control of the national security apparatus, and that's as it should be, under the current rules. He doesn't appear willing to do much more damage, there. But it's time for Obama to take control of the economic reins. It's time to be more explicit about his stimulus package. The people of this country, its economic leaders, and the world's financial institutions and markets needs to know that solutions are coming. And those solutions need to be made law immediately after the inauguration.
We have no president. We need one. Now.