Obama’s key question: ‘Did it work?’

OK, you want to know what the meaning of “it” is, right?

Actually, there are a lot of Its. When it comes to 2012, as opposed to 2010, voters will be judging Barack Obama on which parts of his program worked and which didn’t. Not unusual for elections, and especially when you have a nearly complete meltdown of the economy when taking office.

The elections of 2010 were clearly too soon for people to judge — with high unemployment, corporations parking over $2 trillion on the sidelines, hesitant and scared investors not putting money into the economy and consumers equally fearful of overspending. Building back confidence from the disaster of 2008 takes time — and the actions taken by President Obama and the Democratic Congress were not apparent to anxious and impatient voters who were hurting last November.

The other question that Obama and the Democrats have to deal with is the “What if … ” question. What if President Obama had not acted quickly with government intervention? Would the economy have spun out of control, would millions more jobs have been lost, would more foreclosures have happened and would an international economic crisis, akin to the Great Depression, have unfolded? Could it have been a lot worse? That question is one many people did not want to even consider.

What if TARP had not been enacted; what if there were no stimulus; what if the banks and big financial institutions were not infused with cash; what if Fannie and Freddie weren’t propped up; what if the U.S. auto companies weren’t given tens of billions in loans? 

This is like taking that terrible-tasting medicine when you were a kid — you hate it! But as bad as it tastes, you feel a heck of a lot better afterward. 

Think about it. TARP being paid back almost entirely. The auto companies back on their feet, saving 3 million manufacturing and related jobs, selling stock and paying back the government with interest. Even the banks and big insurance companies like AIG that acted so irresponsibly now paying taxpayers back as well. States face tough times balancing their budgets, but it would have been much worse if the stimulus had not picked up the tab for many of the teachers, police and firefighters.

In other words, will Obama get credit in 2012 for saving the nation from going over the brink and putting the economic recovery in place? Will those who hated the “bailouts” (that would be nearly everybody!) be willing to accept that the money is being paid back and that those actions “worked?” For those doomsayers who accused Obama of being a “socialist,” there just might be acknowledgement that the government did the right thing, at the right time, with the right results. 

My guess is that is exactly where we will be in 18 months. The answer to “Did it work?” will be YES.