For a Day, Obama Shifts Focus to Wall Street
By Ben Pershing
Amid the current intense focus on the need for health-care reform, it's easy to forget that at this time last year, the political world was consumed by a much different kind of crisis.
Today, President Obama heads to New York to attempt to revive his push for an overhaul of the financial regulatory system, giving a speech at Federal Hall on the one-year anniversary of the fall of Lehman Brothers. Obama's address and those of other top administration officials are "aimed at blunting criticism that they lack an 'exit strategy' for withdrawing their support for the financial system with speeches and documents timed for the first anniversary of the worst moments of the crisis," the Wall Street Journal writes. An exit strategy from what? The New York Times reminds that the federal government is currently "the nation's biggest lender, insurer, automaker and guarantor against risk for investors large and small," and that "government spending accounts for a bigger share of the nation's economy -- 26 percent -- than at any time since World War II."
The address does give Obama the chance to do some gloating over what didn't happen after Lehman collapsed -- the economy, bad as it got, never went into a full-scale depression and the financial system, though it wobbled, never fell. For all the recent emphasis on health-care reform, Obama's long-term political health is at least as dependent on the direction of the economy as on health care, so the White House can be expected to tout each bit of evidence that the economy is rebounding between now and November 2010 (and 2012). A new Associated Press-GfK poll finds that "seven out of 10 Americans lack confidence the federal government has taken safeguards to prevent another financial industry meltdown," and 80 percent of respondents believe the current condition of the economy is "poor." The White House won't be amplifying this factoid: Bloomberg writes, "The U.S. recovery may be the slowest since World War II to regain all the ground lost during the recession, even if economists' more optimistic forecasts for expansion turn out to be right."
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