Friday, February 19, 2010

Will the public think the stimulus worked?

Kevin Drum shares this poll response from a few weeks ago:

He asserts that this proves that, contra Megan McArdle and Reihan Salam, that the right does believe that the stimulus didn't work. I think it proves something else, too. For all the liberal complaining about how the stimulus has been presented by the Administration and the media, I think this mostly shows that the public's views on the stimulus aren't entirely unrealistic or unreasonable, if you look at it from their point of view. A year ago, the risk of a financial apocalypse was decent. It's not terribly likely right now, and because the stimulus has been working since then, a good percentage of people are willing to believe that it kept the situation from getting worse. But the economy hasn't completely turned around, so not that many are willing to say that it improved conditions. It undoubtedly has, but I think it's a question of perspective. Wonks and experts would compare the results with the stimulus to a projection of what might have happened without one, and concluded that the stimulus added a point or two of growth and thus improved conditions from what they might have been. However, if in your day-to-day living you still know people getting laid off because there's not enough money in the economy, you're probably not going to think that conditions are much improved from what they are. If, however, unemployment drops to under 9% this year, people might begin to figure that things are turning around, and the stimulus will begin to be seen as having made the difference.

It has been amusing to see many of the same liberal blogs lamenting the ascendance of conservative media that several months ago were talking about how irrelevant cable news is. I tend to agree with the latter view, and I think that the recent electoral bad news for Democrats has had a lot to do with a very public, very ugly meltdown after Scott Brown's election. I'm pretty convinced that the public's attitude is about correct from their point of view, and the better the economy gets, the better the Democrats will do at the ballot box. This doesn't excuse the surprising ineptness of the White House Communications Department over the past year, but I don't think these numbers are terrible, and I think it's safe to say that the president's recent statements put him at the center of this particular debate right now.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.