Sunday, April 04, 2010

American Rebounds

The weekend's irresistible sports metaphor is the NCAA final, "Duke vs. Butler," which sounds like a sequel to "Remains of the Day," "Gosford Park" and all the dramas juxtaposing lives of the privileged with those fated to serve them.

On the eve of a confrontation between American biggies and little guys from nowhere, it's tempting to translate that battle into the counterpart of Wall Street vs. Main Street but, in the real world, life is more complicated.

On the Sunday talk circuit, the Obama Administration is cautiously touting economic recovery, with Economic Adviser Christine Romer claiming "there's just been a tremendous increase in the labor force...over the last three months, we've added more than a million people to the labor force...people that might have been discouraged, dropped out because of the terrible recession have started to have some hope again and are looking for work again."

At the same time, another White House adviser, Lawrence Summers, is cautioning that "the economy has a long way to go" before jobless numbers are back down where they should be.

Unlike basketball, there is no time clock or scoreboard for economy recovery, and politically it's hard to score points with such arguments as Dr. Romer makes about "the biggest fiscal stimulus in American history," cash for clunkers, extending the first-time home buyers credit, the HIRE Act's tax incentive for hiring and a pending $30 billion small business lending program, among other moves.

Democrats will have a hard time winning in November with the slogan, "The recession would have been worse if we hadn't spent trillions to turn it around."

But the nation's Number One basketball fan knows that and, as he watches the NCAA finals, Barack Obama may find some consolation in seeing little Butler, founded by an abolitionist and now ranked high nationally in academic quality, going head to head with the hereditary lords of Duke, whose $50,000-a-year costs to attend are undoubtedly being provided in some part by parents raking it in on Wall Street.

But on Monday night, at least, the playing field will be level.

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