In the Arena

The Same Old Recovery

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I disagree with Michael Scherer’s post below about Barack Obama changing the meaning of the word “recovery.” In an interview Obama did with me toward the end of the campaign, he made it clear that the economy would have to be transformed for the financial crisis to be truly resolved:

Finding the new driver of our economy is going to be critical. There is no better potential driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy … That’s going to be my No. 1 priority when I get into office, assuming obviously that we have done enough to just stabilize the immediate economic situation. We’ve got a boat with a lot of leaks, and we need to get it into port. That’s what the financial rescue package is about. But once we get it into port, once the credit markets are functioning effectively, then it’s time for us to go back to the fundamentals of this economy.

At other points, he has said that health care and education reform are also crucial to a full recovery. (To be fair, he also said he’d want to be doing these things even if there weren’t an economic crisis.) But I do think he’s made it clear that something new would have to replace the “easy credit” economy that has crashed. His nomination, as he says above, is an alternative energy economy. (I have my doubts about whether a green economy will provide enough work to accomplish that, but who knows?)

Obama is a politician who sees the world strategically, who understands how all the pieces fit together. I have no doubt that in his mind recovery has two facets: fixing the financial crisis and building a new economy. And he’s right.