Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Trillion-Dollar Hard Times

In the run-up to what had better be the most inspiring inaugural address ever, Barack Obama keeps breaking bad news about the economy, yesterday warning of "trillion-dollar deficits for years to come."

(Today the Congressional Budget Office upped the ante by estimating a $1.2 trillion shortfall for 2009.)

During his "media availability" yesterday, the President-Elect continued his running commentary on the evolution of the stimulus package he will present to Congress, disclosing it will be free of earmarks, thereby subsuming all of John McCain's economic policy during the campaign into a throwaway line.

Even before he takes the oath, Obama is bringing what Peggy Noonan calls the "bright promise" of "a certain freshness to the proceedings in Washington" by confiding in the American people about what he is learning and how he is going about becoming The Decider. We have traded in the Wizard of Oz for an FDR-like president of fireside chats.

That the news is all terrifying up to now only underscores the need for the new transparency. The subtext of our situation is a fight against panic, and Obama seems to understand that what would feed fears most is keeping us in the dark.

So keep bringing on the trillion-dollar bad news and talk to us about it like grownups. It may not keep us from wanting to hide under the covers, but it's comforting to know that our new president won't be there with us.

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