Tim Fernholz is a former staff writer for the Prospect. His work has been published by Newsweek, The New Republic, The Nation, The Guardian, and The Daily Beast. He is also a Research Fellow at the New America Foundation.
The sophisticated political observer doesn’t need public opinion polls to weigh the odds of President Obama’s re-election. Economic indicators drive voters, and if the president and his party come up short in November, the recriminations won’t be aimed at campaign headquarters in Chicago but at the staffers and wonks tasked with turning around the American economy.
The Escape Artists: How Obama’s Team Fumbled the Recovery, provides just that opportunity. Noam Scheiber, an editor at The New Republic, susses out the Obama administration’s most important internal debates to find exactly where the supposed dream team of economic wonks failed.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
After last fall's electoral defeats, a shaken Democratic Congress returned to Washington to assess its political position and leadership, during what would turn out to be a surprisingly productive lame-duck session. Following a close look at the roster, both the House and the Senate Democratic caucuses elected the same leadership slates that oversaw punishing losses in 2010.
Yet with so many veterans culled in November -- 63 in the House and six in the Senate -- a new generation of leaders needs to step up inside the Democratic Caucus to regain electoral ground and continue pushing their party's priorities in the face of an increasingly conservative Republican Party.
What's missing from this Politico story, and indeed from Republican rhetoric around the health-care reform bill, is any evidence that the Affordable Care Act will increase the deficit. Republicans have exempted their ACA repeal bill from scoring by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office because the CBO's analysis is that ACA will save the government $143 billion over 10 years, and repealing it will increase the deficit. Sure, some of those savings depend on Congress behaving responsibly, but it's the best estimate of the bill's budgetary effects out there.
The new year is a time for optimism, regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Economically speaking, 2010 was a year spent in the doldrums of a recovery. Unemployment held steady at just under 10 percent, and growth was positive but anemic -- each new piece of data tantalized us with the potential for improvement without reducing the scale of our problems.