From Team Obama: ‘We saved the country from a depression’

Had the relatively rosy economic numbers out in December hit a couple of months earlier, President Obama’s “shellacking” in the midterms might have been more on the order of a loss of some seats that the power in party routinely suffers at the midterm point.

The economy is improving — banks are beginning to lend again (slowly, yes, but beginning); employers are predicting more hiring (one hopes they mean here in America; not overseas); unemployment applications are down; stocks are markedly up.

Still, no reputable economist sees the unemployment rate falling fast from its current 9.8 percent to below 8 percent, the point at which some pundits say it must head for the president to win reelection.

But the rate will fall, probably, the experts say, to around 9 percent by the end of 2011, and it’ll be heading down further as the presidential race goes into high gear after Labor Day weekend 2012.

So long as the downward direction holds, Obama should be good to go for a second term.

And my title’s talking point — “We saved the country from a depression” — will help him get there. “Just think where we’d be if Barack Obama hadn’t been elected,” Obama’s team will argue. “We’d be suffering under unemployment rates in the double digits — as in the 20s. Without the stimulus and the auto bailout — to name just two — the economy would have fallen into an abyss that would have brought back Hoovervilles and the hungry hawking apples on street corners.”

One caveat: I live in Chicago, and we are in the throes of an acrimonious and angry mayoral race. When I interviewed the Rev. Jesse Jackson the other day, he kept returning to the real unemployment rate in some of the city’s African American neighborhoods—three times the national average; in other words depression levels.

So that talking point won’t work with a constituency that is one of Obama’s most loyal and important. But it will work well enough, I think, to stymie Mitch McConnell’s stated goal of making Obama a one-term president.

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