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Obama's Do-Something Argument

President Obama's appearance at a town-hall meeting in Elkhart, Ind., earlier today indicates that he has honed his argument for an economic stimulus package, boiling it down to a choice between doing something or doing nothing.

"Let me be clear. I'm not going to tell you that this bill is perfect," Obama said. "I mean, it's coming out of Washington. It's going through Congress." The audience laughed. "But it is the right size, it is the right scope, broadly speaking, it has the right priorities to create jobs that will jump-start our economy and transform this economy for the 21st century....

"I can't tell you with 100 percent certainty that every single item in this plan will work exactly as we hoped. But what I can tell you is, I can say with complete confidence, that endless delay or paralysis in Washington in the face of this crisis will only bring deepening disaster. I can tell you that doing nothing is not an option."

And at the same time, Obama's main message today wasn't something he said, it was where he was: "When we say that we've lost 3.6 million jobs since this recession began, nearly 600,000 in the past month alone, when we say that this area has lost jobs faster than anywhere else in the United States of America, with an unemployment rate of over 15 percent when it was 4.7 percent just last year, when we talk about layoffs in companies like Monaco Coach and Keystone RV and Pilgrim International, companies that have sustained this community for years, we're not just talking numbers. We're talking about Ed," Obama said of the unemployed father of seven who introduced him. "We're talking about the people in the audience here today, people not just in Elkhart, but all across this country.

"We're talking about people who've lost their livelihood and don't know what will take its place. We're talking about parents who've lost their health care and lie awake at night praying their kids don't get sick. We're talking about families who've lost the home that was the corner, their foundation for their American dream, young people who put that college acceptance letter back in the envelope because they just can't afford it.

"That's what those numbers and statistics mean. That is the true measure of this economic crisis. Those are the stories I heard when I came to Elkhart six months ago, and those are the stories that I carried with me to the White House.

"I have not forgotten them. And I promised you back then that, if elected, I'd do everything I could to help this community recover, and that's why I came back today, because I intend to keep my promise."

Obama's aides said the trip wasn't so much about selling his immediate audience on the stimulus as it was about turning Washington's attention to what's going on in places like Elkhart.

Indeed, there were more signs this morning and over the weekend that, even if he hasn't entirely won over Washington quite yet, the public and economists basically think he's on the right track.

Frank Newport writes for Gallup: "The American public gives President Barack Obama a strong 67% approval rating for the way in which he is handling the government's efforts to pass an economic stimulus bill, while the Democrats and, in particular, the Republicans in Congress receive much lower approval ratings of 48% and 31%, respectively.

"These findings, based on Gallup Poll interviews conducted Feb. 6-7, underscore the degree to which Obama appears to be maintaining the upper hand over his opponents from a public opinion perspective as he and congressional leaders wrangle over the precise form and substance of a new economic stimulus plan."

Steven Mufson and Lori Montgomery write in The Washington Post: "While economists remain divided on the role of government generally, an overwhelming number from both parties are saying that a government stimulus package -- even a flawed one -- is urgently needed to help prevent a steeper slide in the economy.

"Many economists say the precise size and shape of the package developing in Congress matter less than the timing, and that any delay is damaging.

"'Most of the things in the package, the big dollar amounts, are things that are pretty quick stimulus and need to be done,' said Alice Rivlin, who was former president Bill Clinton's budget director and who criticized aspects of the proposed stimulus in congressional testimony two weeks ago. 'Is it a perfect package? Of course not. But we're past that. Let's just do it.'"

By Dan Froomkin  |  February 9, 2009; 1:57 PM ET
Categories:  Financial Crisis  
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Comments

Yes, his main audience might be Congress; but he's also talking with Elkhardt, and those of us elsewhere, who vote for members of Congress. We should all let them know what we think!

Posted by: thrh | February 9, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Going to short-circuit the GOP "Politics of Fear" talking point of the week with this brief comparison to show the absurdity of equating the two:

Obama: you know how the economy keeps getting worse, with new layoffs and bankruptcy filings being announced every week? Well, it's going to keep happening unless and until we fix it.

Bush: trust me to do things in secrecy to keep you safe or else we'll all be nuked by terrorists.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | February 9, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Let's hope Republican senators and representatives can defend their views as clearly and with as much detail, as President Obama did today in his townhall meeting in Elkhart.

Otherwise, Republicans should work with this administration, rather than against it, to reverse the economic policies which created this crisis.

We're already in the worst economic downturn in 33 years, with the prospect of becoming the worst in 75 years.

Obama was elected after making clear promises to change our country's economic policies and strategies.

He has a clear mandate to bring about those changes.

Why should Republicans, who won't acknowledge their many years of mistakes and the many problems they've caused, be listened to or trusted?

Posted by: OregonPerspective | February 9, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Yes please, spend spend spend before it's all gone. And it isn't coming back either:


U.S. Taxpayers Risk $9.7 Trillion on Bailouts as Senate Votes

The Federal Reserve, Treasury Department and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation have lent or spent almost $3 trillion over the past two years and pledged to provide up to $5.7 trillion more if needed

“We’ve seen money go out the back door of this government unlike any time in the history of our country,” Senator Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, said on the Senate floor Feb. 3. “Nobody knows what went out of the Federal Reserve Board, to whom and for what purpose. How much from the FDIC? How much from TARP? When? Why?”

Posted by: mdsinc | February 9, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

News flash to Repub senators and congressmen who talk about their 'principles' against spending. If you can switch your 'principles' on (for Obama) and off (for Bush) like a light, YOU CAN'T CALL THEM 'PRINCPLES'!

Posted by: trblmkr1 | February 9, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

After the historic defeat they suffered, the republicans counter with Michael Steele, Sarah Palin, and Rush Limbaugh. They'll do fine in Mississippi, Alabama, etc...Pretty soon you will be required to wear a coonskin hat to get into republican events. Preying on the stupid...

Posted by: danw1 | February 9, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

"What an impressive crowd: the haves, and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite, I call you my base."
There's a reason Republicans like George Walker Bush talk like that.
All I want is to get back to work. I don't need a tax cut. I need a job and I need affordable health care. And I wish Republicans would realize how their ideology and hatred of government in all forms have utterly failed all but the wealthiest.

Posted by: bdunn1 | February 9, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Teh stupid! It BURNS!

Dan, great column. I'm hopeful that the stimulus package that comes out of committe markup will be a worthwhile beginning to fixing some deep-seated problems. Plenty of dead-end GOPers and Blue Dogs stand in the way. Their willful ignorance, myopia and overarching pigheadedness threaten the country as a whole.

Posted by: crix | February 9, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Take the kid gloves off Mr. President! These yokels need a maximum strength can of whoop *ss to understand that this spending bill needs more spending in it and that tax cuts will do nothing to save a job but funding the 50 separate depressions (the states) will stave off job losses. Beat them down now so that they know you mean business so that when you have to come back they will not be so ready to obstruct.

The majority of Americans are fearful and ready for some sort of rescue to happen so that we can keep our jobs and continue to support our families. Apparently the Republicans and their cousins the right wing Democrats do not have an acquaintance with the history of the Great Depression or Econ 101 or they are too delusional and narcissistic and anti-working Americans to do the right thing. We must spend our way out of this mess creating jobs, repairing infrastructure and helping the states keep services for their citizens working.

Mr. President YOU have the power along with us to beat them down. Do it!

Posted by: bwaatrnwg | February 9, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

I don't know if anyone heard the new RNC cahirman on Sunday; I certainly have heard no comment. He pointed out that only private industry creates jobs...the stimulus plan will only create WORK. Spoken like a true Republican....one who has never worked in his life.

Posted by: waltej1 | February 9, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

"But what I can tell you is, I can say with complete confidence, that endless delay or paralysis in Washington in the face of this crisis will only bring deepening disaster."

so much for choosing hope over fear.

Posted by: Waffle1 | February 9, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

For the first time in years, I've written to my Senators, both GOP. I told them to stop their petty obstructionist tactics from the past and get with the program to get the country moving again. Just because the bill doesn't have more tax giveaways to Paris Hilton and her party buds that the GOP seems to love so much is no reason not to support the bill. Imperfect, yes. Needed now, heck yeah!

Posted by: truthman3 | February 9, 2009 6:59 PM | Report abuse

I'm watching Obama right now. He is Bush with a better use of the English language. The man is out of his league. Only Robert Gibbs handles questions worse. Welcome to the big leagues Barack!

Posted by: mmourges | February 9, 2009 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Waffle1 | February 9, 2009 5:28 PM

"But what I can tell you is, I can say with complete confidence, that endless delay or paralysis in Washington in the face of this crisis will only bring deepening disaster."

so much for choosing hope over fear.

Fear? Hope? How about truth for a change? I am happy to listen to a president who can A, string together a few sentences that actually make sense, and B, tells me the truth.

Posted by: biggirl90 | February 9, 2009 8:33 PM | Report abuse

Obama is on target and on message. Repugs beware! The people outside your little club have had it with you and your lame scare tactics. Your party has lied and preyed upon the fears of a nation for far too long and now the nation can see your game for what it's worth.

Obama tried to reach out to you, but, you gave him the back of your hand. Shame on you. Try thinking, just once about the rest of the people who populate this country instead of your Wall Street buddies and bankers.

Posted by: hadenuff1 | February 9, 2009 8:40 PM | Report abuse

"He is Bush with a better use of the English language. The man is out of his league."

Can you please explain exactly what the hell this means? I'm not sure who can play in the league you have in mind.

Posted by: jrw2 | February 9, 2009 8:55 PM | Report abuse

At a time when deep structural problems are mounting globally the media chatters about bi-partisanship while Republicans take to the airwaves spreading false information and are obstructing legislation. Asking "Joe the Plumber" (yes McCain's Joe the Plumber) for advice on economic issues shows just how unserious they are about fixing the crisis.

Outside the US people worldwide are out in the streets protesting. Iceland's government has fallen. Spain's unemployment reached 20%. Riots and protests are taking place in Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Russia and even Europe. Massive social unrest is turning ugly.

It won't be long before the American people start spilling out on the streets in anger, too, unless something is done quickly. Will the Republicans then realize listening to Joe the Plumber and obstructing pragmatic solutions were not such good ideas after all? And that they should have taken this more serious?

Obama, 3-Republicans and the Democrats are trying to do something. At least they take the people who have lost their jobs, lost their homes, lost their savings, lost their retirement seriously.

Posted by: serena1313 | February 9, 2009 9:43 PM | Report abuse

I would ask Mr Dan Froomkin to return his column to the way it was before. There is too many pages to open now, and for those of us that can only get dialup where we live, it takes way longer to download a bunch of pages that it does with one. If you want to see the comments you have to download each section seperatly. I would much appreciate the faster simpler earlier format

Posted by: waawaazaire | February 9, 2009 9:52 PM | Report abuse

How can anyone seriously consider that spending nearly one trillion dollars on pork laden projects that don't stimulate the economy (thats the private sector for you dems) but grows the government by leaps and bounds is a good idea. The government contributes nothing to the economy only takes what they want in the form of taxes. Why should Baracks big government care about the private sector when all he has to do is raise taxes to get more money. Hell he can even print more money. Obama is trying to push this "porkulus" plan down our throats because he himself knows its seriously flawed but again, he doesn't care because it grows the government. Thats what Obama is after, more and bigger government. Has anyone who supports this "porkulus" actually read it? I'll bet not. It's all about Obama isn't it. He's the savior after all and if he says it's going to work then by God it's going to work and there will be no arguments about it. Got that??

Posted by: KennyKomodo | February 9, 2009 9:53 PM | Report abuse

OK, let's talk about Elkhart, IN. They produce RVs for Pete's sake! It's a completely un-diversified production town that produces nothing but luxury goods for the middle class. Go figure. Who buys an RV with cash? Elkhart produces the goods that are symptomatic of our problems--people buying goods that they can't afford with money they don't have. Little wonder that their unemployment is up. Nice job exploiting their mismanagement and self-induced pain, Mr. President. Oh yeah, and how green are those 5 mpg gas guzzlers?

Posted by: but_seriously | February 9, 2009 10:10 PM | Report abuse

Hey Waawaazaire, get cable. Then you can read whatever you want whenever you want and, in your own little way, you'll stimulate the economy. Maybe Verizon or Comcast could hire an out-of-work RV upholsterer from Elkhart, IN.

Posted by: but_seriously | February 9, 2009 10:17 PM | Report abuse

I agree with jrw2, our President has absolutely nothing to feel bad about here. He's clearly thought through what he's saying. He's not just mindlessly reading things off of cue cards without any understanding as to what he's saying. Who is he being compared to? What is this "league"?

Posted by: rlg3526 | February 9, 2009 10:49 PM | Report abuse

KennyKomodo, you're perfectly free to read the stimulus bill if you'd like. People that I trust have done so for me (None of them were able to review Bush's warrantless wiretapping program, so I never trusted that), but the main point is that Obama doesn't have to force anything down anybody's throat. Look at how many jobs have been lost over just the last three months!
Guy, we're in a crisis!!!!! It's only going to get worse until it's tackled!!! Please, stop listening to Republicans who only hate America! Please turn off "hate radio" and please listen to people of common sense!

Posted by: rlg3526 | February 9, 2009 10:57 PM | Report abuse

WOW I finally get it. I'm stoked. Pass this stimulus bill!!

What I do not get is how these red states with their crappy infrastructure and crumbling schools can keep voting in rethugs. The last time anyone spent money on infrastructure for them was FDR--70 years ago!

What ticks me off is most of these $ will go to red states cause they are such a mess. They cant handle a winter storm or a hurricaine or a heat wave with their antiquated infrastructures. They had so-called fiscal conservatives the last 50 years who kept lowering their taxes (and porking up corporations). Now those corrporations are tanking (see Elkhart indiana) and we have to bail them out while they listen limbaugh and rethugs diss dems every day. Ticks me off!!

Posted by: tmcproductions2004 | February 9, 2009 11:00 PM | Report abuse

...pork laden projects that don't stimulate the economy (thats the private sector for you dems) ...

Posted by: KennyKomodo | February 9, 2009 9:53 PM
---------------------------------------
Ok, Kenny,

You've said your piece about what won't stimulate the economy, so now what will? For that matter, what do you mean when you say "stimulus," and how does it work?

What solutions do you have to offer?

Posted by: lonquest | February 9, 2009 11:06 PM | Report abuse

KennyKomodo,

http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=9781

"When Bush took office, the federal budget totaled $1.9 trillion. This year it will top $3 trillion, with a deficit of nearly $400 billion. And that was before the massive bailout of Wall Street.

Under President Bush, domestic discretionary spending has increased faster than under any president since Lyndon Johnson launched the Great Society....

...By almost every measure, government grew bigger, more expensive and more intrusive under President Bush and the Republican Congress."


This is reported by the CONSERVATIVE CATO Institute. Care to comment on your outrage about Bush's big, incompentent government?

Posted by: Alan4 | February 9, 2009 11:36 PM | Report abuse

Jeez Dan, I've given the 'new format' a fair go and, reluctantly, I've got to say that it really sux. Why ask us, for instance, if we want to continue reading a particular post. Let people decide for themselves when and if they want to stop reading.You'll have more readers that way!

And could you please give us back the little box we used to check to recommend comments submitted by our fellow readers.

No kidding, the new format is slowly alienating me. Your column used to be the first thing I turned to each morning, the thing I missed most on the weekend. It no longer is...

Posted by: ruinedbruin | February 9, 2009 11:53 PM | Report abuse

to but_seriously
You are a jurk. I cant get cable or DSL where I live. And it looks like I wont anytime soon because the repubs think expanding broadband is not stimulous. But you big shots with your cable and high speed everything, dont mind the constant reloading to try to read Froomkins column. Ill bet many of the readers thought this was the only section today. If you want to see comments you have to download up to six different pages each with two pictures of Froomkin. Still think its a good setup?

Posted by: waawaazaire | February 10, 2009 2:03 AM | Report abuse

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