I’ll make one last point about the current economic problems and our governmental responses to it, and then I will leave it be for a bit.
My grandmother used to say that you have only one chance to make a good first impression. If you were going out with a girl on a first date, you wanted to impress her parents as someone who was decent, trustworthy, and responsible. If you built up credibility, it could help you in the future. If you got your date home by her curfew the first 10 times, her parents might give you the benefit of the doubt if you were late on date #11.
I think the same holds true for Presidents and other political figures. Most voters are willing to give our newly elected leaders a fair chance. If initial performance doesn’t suggest credibility or competence, however, it can be difficult to recover from that first impression. This is why President Obama, and Congress, should be very careful about what they are trying to accomplish and what they are saying about it. President Obama clearly has an ambitious agenda, but sometimes people who try to accomplish everything end up accomplishing nothing. Are education or health care reform, for example, really as important as the current banking and credit problems? Isn’t the most important issue right now to make sure that the awesome sums we are spending to try to stimulate the economy are spent wisely and well? If the public has the feeling that the Administration and Congress are trying to do too much, outraged complaints from the Administration and Congress about the AIG bonuses may come across as naive or reflective of a lack of attention to important details. If some members of the general public in fact are having such reactions — and I suspect they are — it means that Congress and the Administration are making entirely unnecessary withdrawals from the credibility bank.
Edited to add: This kind of story — http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2009/03/18/breaking-i-was-responsible-for-bonus-loophole-says-dodd/ — isn’t going to help any.