Thursday, November 12, 2009

Business-Related Changes During the First Few Months of Obama's Tenure

Business-Related Changes During the First Few Months of Obama’s Tenure

On October 20th, 2009, President Obama came to New York City where he made a speech at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser about all that he and his administration have done for our country in just nine months. I was at the speech, standing in the front row, just a few feet away from the President. (The VIPs were seated comfortably in a balcony section behind us.) It was obvious that the President wanted to be near the everyday people who elected him last November.

Here is some of what the President said. “…It’s important for all of us to remember what the situation was when we came in nine months ago, because there’s some people out there who seem to have a selective memory. There’s sort of a revisionist history about what was waiting for us when we began this presidency. We were facing an economic crisis unlike any we had seen in generations – losing 700,000 jobs a month; financial system on the verge of meltdown; economists of every political persuasion, they were fearful that we might fall into a Great Depression. You remember that?”

We all cried out – “yes!”

The President continued. “And that’s why we acted boldly and we acted swiftly to pass a Recovery Act that’s made a difference in the lives of families across America. People don’t, I think, remember where we were and where we are now. We put a tax cut into the pockets of small business owners….”

Then the President enumerated some of the accomplishments of the first nine months of his tenure as President. There are many, but I’ll mention only the business-related accomplishments that he described. His administration helped to create thousands of private sector jobs, and made over 30,000 loans to small businesses. The President also told us about his achievements that addressed the negative impact that some businesses have had on our society and citizens. He worked and achieved the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair pay Act, ensuring that businesses pay women “the same as men for doing the same work.” The President continued. “We passed legislation to protect consumers from credit card abuse. We passed a law to prevent abuse in the mortgage industry. We passed a law that will protect our children from being targeted from big tobacco companies.” He has worked to fashion policy changes aimed at reducing greenhouse gas pollution by car manufacturers. And, of course, the President explained his ongoing efforts in dealing with insurance companies and health care reform, and the regulation of the financial industry.

Alluding to the intense criticism he has received, the President took credit for his many achievements, observing that he had a huge mess to clean up. “We understand exactly who and what got us into this mess. Now, we don’t mind cleaning it up – I’m grabbing my mop and my broom and we’re scrubbing the floors and trying to neaten things up. But don’t just stand there and say, “You’re not holding the mop right…. You’re not mopping fast enough. Don’t accuse me of having a socialist mob. Instead of standing on the sidelines, why don’t you grab a mop? Help us clean up this mess and get America back on track! Grab a mop!”, said the President.

The Audience, hundreds of us, responded by chanting the words – “Grab a mop! Grab a mop!” After the President finished his thirty-minute speech, he stepped down from the dais and shook the hands of those in the front row. I shook the President’s hand, happy to be a part of this historic gathering and optimistic about the nation’s future.


  1. Professor Wade:

    Is it your sense that things ARE better than they were nine months ago? Unemployment continues to rise. Executive bonuses are being handed out like candy again. The new AIG chief is belligerent about the administration's efforts to contain pay for executives from companies that took TARP money. are things better? Or is the President just optimistically hoping that things are improving?

  2. Anonymous,

    I feel your pain! Things are still bad in many regards. It has been a long time since unemployment was at 10%, and other indicators lagged like they do currently. The Obama Administration was handed a mess. I like to think of myself as a hopeful optimist. I think in a relatively short period of time the pain that we all face will subside in some ways. Our economy and history is littered with cycles of bust and enormous boom. Better days are ahead.

  3. I must confess that I do not share Cheryl's optimism.

    First, I do no think that the Obama administration has done anything to address the flaws in financial regulation that gave rise to the present crisis. Perhaps I am missing something, but too-big-to-fail is now apparently going to be codified. We are still burdened with a ridiculous system of corporate governance. Derivatives regulation seems unlikely. The financial sector can still use absurd levels of leverage.

    Second, and more importantly, most of the money spent to address the crisis has been targeted at the very banks that caused the crisis. It has definitely been a trickle down bailout. And, it is not working. The banks are terrified of their own portfolios and they hoarding cash. They now have over one trillion dollars at the Fed earning 0.25 percent in government subsidized interest. The banks are sucking the lifeblood out of the economy.

    Right now the Fed is singlehandedly propping up the residential real estate market. Commercial real estate is about to collapse. And credit is so tight WalMart had to announce today that it will be guaranteeing the obligations of its suppliers.

    I too was thrilled to shake Obama's hand. And, the evening of the election in Grant Park is a highlight of my life.

    But, if you follow the money there has been little change from the Bush financial policies that got us into this mess. The bailout can truly be termed the Paulson-Obama bailout.

    And, the future? We are are now well down the road to the Japan Syndrome. More on Monday.