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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The ‘New Normal’ Excuse

James Pethokoukis
Just an economy that used to grow?

Even a talker as talented as President Obama can’t do the impossible: Persuade Americans that the three-year-old economic “recovery” is anything other than pathetic.

Growth is sinking back toward the recession red zone and unemployment’s firmly stuck at over 8 percent for 42 straight months.

It’s no wonder a new Gallup poll finds 75 percent of us “dissatisfied” with the direction of the country. Or that a CNN survey finds that twice as many Americans (39 percent) think the economy is still mired in recession than think it recovering (19 percent).

So Obama isn’t even trying to make the “Morning in America” case for his re-election. He now concedes that “the economy isn’t where it needs to be” and that “we have a lot more work to do.” But he’s quick to add that the Not-So-Great Recovery isn’t his fault, saying: “Throughout history, it has typically taken countries up to 10 years to recover from financial crises of this magnitude.”

Obama, you see, is a believer in the “New Normal,” a phrase popularized on Wall Street, where gloomy economists cite the slow growth, high unemployment and high debt that supposedly afflict countries after severe banking crises.

But the president’s a recent convert to this religion of low expectations. He certainly didn’t buy it when he took office. Back then, he predicted aquick and powerful economic rebound — if only lawmakers implemented his policies, such as the $800 billion stimulus. Which Congress, then with strong Democratic majorities, quickly did.

In 2009, for instance, the White House said the economy would be growing at a brisk 4.3 percent annual clip this year, with unemployment down to 5.6 percent. Indeed, Obama’s top economists predicted we’d be smack in the middle of a fat streak of high-growth years: 4.3 percent in 2011, followed by 4.3 percent growth in 2012 and 2013, too. And 2014? 4 percent growth.

Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton would have nothing on Obama, these predictions suggested. Back then, Team Obama scoffed at the dismal New Normal faith.

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