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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press How Did the NYT Determine that the President Can't Do Much About the Economy?

How Did the NYT Determine that the President Can't Do Much About the Economy?

Friday, 16 September 2011 22:14

In an article reporting the results of a new public opinion about President Obama and Congress, the NYT told readers:

"Two-thirds of the public say Mr. Obama has not made progress in fixing the economy, even though a majority of people concede the condition of the national economy is not something a president can do a lot about."

The public can only "concede" that the president cannot do much about the economy if it is in fact true that the president cannot do much about the economy. Of course the mainstream of the economics profession would argue the opposite. For example, through Keynesian stimulus, it is possible to boost growth and create jobs. Alternatively, the decision to make budget cutbacks in a downturn adds to unemployment and slows growth.

By using the term "concede," the NYT is implying that this view is wrong. It would be interesting to know how it made this determination.

Alternatively, the paper could have simply told readers what its poll findings actually show: most people do not believe that the president can have much impact on the economy.

Comments (5)Add Comment
President alone vs with Congress
written by Melissa, September 17, 2011 7:36
The people are probably right that the President himself, alone with executive powers, can't do very much. He needs the support of Congress to pass stimulus bills. And I think it's obvious to all that this President is indeed alone when it comes to doing anything with Congress. I suppose he can do a bit on the monetary side using the Treasury but he can't even control the Fed, except by eventually changing appointments - he can't order them to do anything in particular in the short term, right?
Obama Must Deactivate All Proactive and Reactive Market Interference
written by izzatzo, September 17, 2011 8:27
Governments much less presidents can only affect an economy negatively with proactive or reactive interference in natually evolving markets.

Only aggressive deactivation of all government interference can result in positive effects on the economy necessary for its full potential to be achieved. For example in sports removal of the referees always results in a more spirited and exciting game.

Don't be a disabler. Be a free market enabler and deactivate all proactive and reactive socialist interference in the market. Let Obama achieve success by doing nothing.

Stupid liberals.
written by David S., September 17, 2011 11:56

On this one, I think you get partial credit.

The President alone cannot introduce the necessary Keynesian stimulus into the economy. He can only succeed in that endeavor if Congress goes along with him by enacting such legislation.

However, when Obama had control of the House and virtual control of the Senate (60 votes needed to break Republican undemocratic filibusters), he could have pushed for a more ambitious and necessary Keynesian stimulus, and publicly shamed the GOP and any stray Democrat who refused to go along with the policy.

Now, having lost control of Congress thanks to his too modest stimulus, he is forced to wear that mistake like an albatross around his neck. Even worse, he cannot and will not admit his mistake in not seeking a greater stimulus at the outset of his term, so he remains condemned to defend a failed policy, while the Republicans fabricate nonsensical arguments regarding the failure of the "too huge" stimulus.
It doesn't matter, does it?
written by Scott ffolliott, September 17, 2011 8:16
Who believes anything published in the NY Times?
"Deactivate All Proactive and Reactive Market Interference"
written by mikeofcolumbia, September 19, 2011 5:03
I like izzatzo's analogy of removing referees from sports events to make them "more spirited and exciting". But why stop at economic regulation? Let's get the traffic cops off the road, to make driving "more spirited and exciting". For that matter, let's shut down all law enforcement, to make things generally "more spirited and exciting". Some would call it anarchy, but I prefer to see it as a "more spirited and exciting" way of life.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.