“There are always going to be bumps on the road to recovery,” Barack Obama declared this month, on the day the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that unemployment had climbed back to 9.1 percent. The president acknowledged that “we still face some challenges”; but, as the sheer complacency of his remarks suggest, the administration has not been prepared to meet them. The United States is still in the throes of an economic slump that more closely resembles the Great Depression of the 1930s than it does other post-World War II recessions.
From the day he took office, Barack Obama had a unified theory of how the United States could recover and prosper. At the center of his plan—which he voiced in an address to a joint session of Congress in February 2009—was the need to reduce the use of carbon-based fuels, whether through energy efficiency or through their replacement by renewable sources. This course of action, he said, was the only way to “truly transform our economy, to protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change.” Compelling questions have certainly been raised about this claim.
Yesterday, speaking in El Paso, Texas, President Obama referred to a growing consensus around the idea that it’s time “to solve the immigration problem.” We agree, and wrote so, last week, in an editorial published in print on May 4. In his speech, President Obama expressed hope for political progress on issues such as the Dream Act. We concur that such progress would be wonderful—but it doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon.
Now that Donald Trump appears on the verge of launching a presidential campaign, it is worth reflecting on the meaning of this low moment in American political history. Trump is a clown and a buffoon, and the odds of him winning even one Republican caucus or primary appear slim. But there is no denying that Trump has managed to tap into something genuinely worrisome in American politics. Democrats may be tempted to take pleasure in the fact that Trump will likely push the GOP presidential field to the right, and thereby help Obama in 2012.
A serious conversation about managing the federal budget is under way. And that’s a good thing. Federal spending is growing faster than federal revenue. Absent changes in the law, future generations of Americans will likely have to raise taxes to unprecedented levels, dramatically reduce the reach of government programs, risk the macroeconomic consequences of uncontrolled debt, or some combination of all three. At best, these options are unappealing. At worst, they are a threat to prosperity. But the fiscal conversation is unfolding in an unfortunate manner.
We have found much to like in President Obama’s actions over the past week. He acted to stop a looming slaughter in Libya—a decision that, based on the number of lives it likely saved, must now be judged a clear success. Moreover, the air campaign against Qaddafi has significantly weakened one of the world’s most brutal dictators, providing momentum and hope to the rebels who are fighting to unseat him. This has not just been a hopeful development for Libya; it is also a hopeful development for the entire Middle East.
Over the past few days, President Obama has surprised us. For weeks, he seemed committed to avoiding military action against Libya—even though Libyans were imploring America and the West to come to their aid. But at the very last minute, when Muammar Qaddafi seemed to be only days and perhaps hours away from retaking the remainder of his country by force, Obama decided to act. It was a decision we wish he would have arrived at weeks ago. But it was the right decision.
By the time you read this, any number of eventualities may have played out in Libya. It is possible that the rebels and Muammar Qaddafi will be locked in a stalemate, or Qaddafi will have brutally reestablished control over a country that no longer regards his rule as legitimate, or—this scenario now seems crushingly unlikely—the rebels will have managed to topple the dictator once and for all. It is possible, too, that President Obama may have decided finally to impose a no-fly zone or recognize the Libyan provisional government or arm the rebels or strike Qaddafi’s forces from the air.
In recent weeks, Google has indicated that it is revising its search algorithm in order to punish so-called "scrapers" and "content farms"—websites that, respectively, steal articles from other publications and write absurdly banal articles built around common search terms, thereby gobbling up traffic. For anyone who cares about the future of writing and reporting, this was certainly good news. But Google's improvements appeared to be aimed fairly narrowly at the most egregious offenders, sites that no one thinks of as legitimate publications, like Associated Content and eHow.