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“Obama, Geithner Get Low Grades From Economists”

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That’s the key headline from this morning’s Wall Street Journal. The heart of the economists’ critique:

[The] economists’ main criticism of the Obama team centered on delays in enacting key parts of plans to rescue banks. “They overpromised and underdelivered,” said Stephen Stanley of RBS Greenwich Capital. “Secretary Geithner scheduled a big speech and came out with just a vague blueprint. The uncertainty is hanging over everyone’s head.”

Yesterday The Hill provided a sampling not of number-crunching economists, but of veteran president-watchers –Democrats and Republicans, pundits and electeds– but the verdict was the same: Confidence in President Obama’s direction is slipping.

A few weeks of decent market gains, and much of the angst would fade, but the economy is clearly now “owned” by the president because he got the stimulus he wanted, he didn’t veto the ear-mark laden appropriations bill, and it has been four months since his election and there is still no public plan for the banks. President Obama blames President Bush at every opportunity, but that’s already an old refrain with little punch. With a trillion-and-a-half of spending at President Obama’s disposal (the stimulus, the omnibus, and the second half of TARP), voters expect a reviving market which looks out a few months.

Republicans are beginning to get their voice back, and the sense of a Democratic Administration and Congress burdened by absurd economic theories is growing. If the economy staggers along in no-to-low growth, voters will have to put the Congress back in the hands of the tax-cutting party.

Senior Democrats on the Hill may yet force the president to abandon his growth-destroying tax hikes, and to focus more on reintroducing the optimistic tone that the Chief Executive should almost always project. But their opportunity to recalibrate his course is narrowing, and the first hundred days is quickly becoming a slog through a swamp of wasteful spending and useless rhetorical attacks on the long-gone George W. Bush.

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