It’s hard to find an upside to the continuous drumbeat of bad economic news. But on April 7, MSNBC host and Obama cheerleader Rachel Maddow felt compelled to try.
“There is a silver lining here, maybe,” Maddow said. “As horrible as the jobs numbers are and as pessimistic as executives across the country appear to be – Americans broadly speaking are actually sort of increasingly optimistic these days.”
Maddow cited a New York Times/CBS poll that indicated more Americans think the United States is heading in the right direction, the number who think the economy is getting worse has decreased and more are thinking the bank bailout will help “all Americans” – all of this occurring since President Barack Obama was sworn in back in January.
“Poll numbers like those are just a measure of the public’s mood,” Maddow said. “But, when everyone talks about how important it is for people to have confidence in the economy, for people to expect that things will get better – is it possible for this little inexplicable bout of public optimism could be a self-fulfilling prophecy?”
The answer: No – according to New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman. Despite his liberal leanings, Krugman wasn’t having any of it. He disagreed with Maddow’s premise that the new attitude change she was attributing to Obama’s presidency would do anything for the overall economy.
“The trouble is – better to have people slightly optimistic, sheer panic is not good for anything, but the fact of the matter is we have some real, real problems. They’re not going to go away with self-fulfilling optimism.” Krugman said.
“You know, one of the little things that has been reported is the IMF has now, the International Monetary Fund has upped its estimate of losses on bad loans to $4 trillion,” he continued. “Not so long ago, $1 trillion was considered an exorbitant estimate.”
Krugman praised Obama for the optimism, but noted that wasn’t enough.
“The problem is there are a lot of real underlying mistakes that were made that landed us in this mess. The public’s optimism is good. People believe Obama is likely to do the right thing – that’s all good, but it’s not enough.”
The public optimism Maddow cited also doesn’t reflect the deeply divided opinion of the electorate. A Pew Research Center poll released on April 2 found that the disparity in President Obama’s job approval ratings between Republicans and Democrats is the widest gap in the modern era.