Obama’s First Fifteen Months, Composite Edition

Brad DeLong has two posts, one from Ezra “I’m a liberal who is safe for the Washington Post” Klein and one from Mike “I actually looked at the data” Konczal.

Brad deals with Ezra’s folly:

I think a B+ is too high a grade–largely because one big task of 2009 was to set up the situation so that you could still make policy in 2010 and 2011 if it turned out that you needed to.

And that’s without mentioning that the Administration violated the first law of Presidencies; the one George Effing W. Bush knew well: give your base something early, so they know you didn’t just come to them for their votes. Bush gave his “faith-based initiatives.” Obama—who campaigned on card check, principal reduction, and his father being Jor-El—only went for big-ticket items.

Mike goes in detail over the ground I discussed here: the idiocy that is the 2010 State of the Union Address, delivered 27 January 2010. With contemporaneous detail. Go Read the Whole Thing.

It’s not just bad economics, it’s bad politics. Which brings me back to Matt’s lazy first graphic, which means I’m going to beat the dead horse again. Below the fold.

I called it “lazy” because it is; it’s raw data, and you don’t just look at raw data in isolation, at least if you’re sane. You don’t do it if you’re an economist, and you don’t do it if you’re a politician.

As an economist, you don’t just look at unemployment; you look at unemployment in relation to other things—causes, effects. GDP gaps, demographics, transitions from one sector to another, you name it. It’s nice to see data, and flows, but they have to mean something.

Political analysts—if they’re any good—don’t look at data in isolation either, especially when they have Austan Goolsbee, Alan Kreuger, Christina Romer, and even Lawrence H. Summers working with them. Any one of those four—let alone all of them, often in the same room, if not always the same discussion—could tell David Axelrod that the U.S. needs to create between 110,000 and 150,000 jobs a month just to tread water on unemployment. Maybe they ballpark it at 125,000. So instead of Matt’s original graphic, David Axelrod would have seen something like this one:

And if he’s still talking about how his boss will have nothing to worry about in two years, well, I’m certain that Goolsbee, Krueger, Romer, or Summers—all of whom were still at the White House during that time—would have set him straight.

And there would have been another policy, a change of course. Or a really bad Unforced Error.