Martin Wolf looks back, and rues what will be, going forward:
Suppose that the US presidential election of 1932 had, in fact, taken place in 1930, at an early stage in the Great Depression. Suppose, too, that Franklin Delano Roosevelt had won then, though not by the landslide of 1932. How different subsequent events might have been. The president might have watched helplessly as output and employment collapsed. The decades of Democratic dominance might not have happened.
Obama took the right policy steps to stabilize the economy, he was just too timid. Without intervention, Wolf says, recent figures show GDP would have dropped 12 per cent instead of 4 per cent; unemployment would have peaked at 16.5 per cent, instead of 10 per cent.
We can argue all we want about whether Democrats could have passed a bigger stimulus, or one focused more effectively on spending instead of tax cuts, or whether trying to pass a better bill was worth the risk of failing to pass anything at all. You can't prove anything from what didn't happen, so we'll never know.
But looking forward, the political consequences of what was done are more predictable, and they'll be dire, for Democrats, and for the country:
So what is going to happen? I assume that, after the midterm elections, resurgent Republicans will offer new tax cuts and ignore the fiscal deficits. They will pretend that this has nothing to do with any reviled stimulus, though it is much the same thing – increasing fiscal deficits, thereby offsetting private frugality. That would put the administration on the spot. It would have to choose between vetoing the tax cuts and accepting them, so allowing the Republicans to get the credit for their "yacht and mansion-led" recovery. Any recovery is better than none. But it could have been much better than this. Those who were cautious when they should have been bold will pay a big price.
So Republicans and their anti-government, anti-regulation, anti-public spending approach will get the credit for reviving the economy to whatever extent it gets revived, with stimulus that is not called stimulus, deficits that are forgotten, tax cuts that increase income inequality, and public spending that primarily benefits the wealthy and powerful.
What Martin Wolf Said
...The bad decisions of January 2009 will cast a shadow on America for years, and quite possibly decades, to come.
I don't count Obama out quite yet. He fought ferociously to win the primary in 2008. But he doesn't seem to be learning anything from the failure of his bipartisanship, the failure of his trust that Republicans care more about the country than about power, and his failure to "politick" as part and parcel of policy.
Maybe two years with a Republican House and Senate might smarten him up on that score, if anything will.