So you think we’re on the verge of a recovery? Let’s see whether President Obama seems to agree:
On April 14, he acknowledged that a recovery is possible, someday. “For the very first time,” he said, “we're beginning to see glimmers of hope.” So when do glimmers of hope become big, broad shafts of economic sunlight? “Way off in the distance,” Obama added, “we can see a vision of America's future that is far different than our troubled economic past.”
Way off in the distance? Just how far off is “way off,” Mr. President?
[See how bailouts can butcher capitalism.]
Oh never mind. Obama’s a politician. Trained to speak elliptically. Maybe Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is a little more definitive in his optimism.
Bernanke on April 14: “Recently we have seen tentative signs that the sharp decline in economic activity may be slowing.” Tentative signs? MAY be slowing? Anything more concrete than that, Mr. Chairman?
“To be sure," he continued, "we will not have a sustainable recovery without a stabilization of our financial system and credit markets.”
[See a tally of the bailouts so far.]
Okay then. Let’s move on. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is one of the most upbeat guys in the Cabinet. Surely he has something encouraging to say.
Geithner, April 5: “There are encouraging signs.” (See!) “But it took us a long time to get here. It's going to take some time for us to work through this. Progress is not going to be even. We're going to have fits and starts. There's going to be a period where it's going to feel very bad still and very uncertain.”
Whoa. "Very bad," Tim? "Very uncertain?" Can’t you, like, move this recovery along a little faster?
[See the other reason consumers have stopped spending.]
Let’s try Larry Summers, Obama’s top economic advisor. He seems like the most impatient guy in government. Surely he sees a way to fast-forward through this misery.
Summers, April 9: “The sense of a ball falling off a table, which is what the economy has felt like since the middle of last fall, I think we can be reasonably confident that that's going to end within the next few months and that you'll no longer have that sense of free fall.”
Larry, you’ve got to be kidding – a whole speech, and that’s the best you can come up with? Lousy metaphors about balls falling off a table? Tempered confidence that this nauseating “sense of free fall” might subside within a few months?
[See why things may never return to normal.]
What’s up with these guys? They’re the top officials running the economy. They have access to the best economic forecasts, they’re poring over the banks’ balance sheets, they know all the doomsday scenarios. If anybody knows what lies ahead for the economy, it’s….
-- With Danielle Burton