A year ago I made a series of posts on the first year of the Obama administration. Now, as he enters his second year, it is time for a second assessment.
The most urgent task the Obama administration inherited was to save the American and world economy, which was collapsing at the end of the Bush administration. The economy is one of the most complex of all social institutions. No one person or organization can control it. President Bush initiated the bailout of specific large companies, leaving the government in temporary control of several of them. President Obama continued those bailouts, though with a bit more regulation, especially of the stockbrokers turned "investment banks" that had produced the crisis in the first place.
The bailouts worked. Much of the money authorized for bailouts was not actually spent, and most of the loans that were made have already been paid back. In particular, we saved half the auto industry, which is an essential pillar of our economy. In the end, we might even make money.
The recession stopped getting worse, and has slowly been getting better. The most recent consensus of economists is that the next couple of years might see enough growth to recover most of the lost jobs, as well as the lost profits that are already improving.
The administration has also been trying to invest in new industries to establish the foundation for our future economy. They have been particularly interested in alternatives to oil as an energy source, and in making up for the big slowdown in new drug development. Naturally, the large companies that benefit from the current energy and drug markets, and their representatives in the legislature, have opposed these new investments. Nonetheless, I am hopeful that the economy of, say, twenty years from now will rest on investments in alternatives that we make now, both by government and by business.
I believe the economy is the single most important issue determining how people vote - most especially, whether they feel secure in their own economic future. I expect that by 2012 the economy will be sufficiently improved that Democrats will have a big year, and President Obama will probably be re-elected.