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Leave aside that Grunwald never considers that those GDP numbers include government spending as GDP growth and would logically be inflated by massive spends such as ARRA. Given the three years of economic stagnation that followed, Grunwald here is ignoring the real story, arguably the most important news story of our time: The credit unwind never ended. As noted above, since the putative end of the recession, the suffering of Americans at the level of the street, the family, and the retail store has continued unabated, and over a greater time duration (another calculation Grunwald doesn't engage).
Have the Democrats sunk this low since the days when Bill Clinton felt our pain? A president who mocks the private sector as a hive of undertaxed God and gun nuts, and his prolix apologists in the mainstream media?
Though he preposterously positions himself as a Beltway outsider (he worked in D.C. for The Washington Post and now writes for Time, but he moved to Florida at some point), Grunwald has no time for the people who actually vote for Republicans. The Tea Party is pathologized throughout, and Grunwald forms his picture of the GOP largely through the plaintive pleas of lukewarm RINOS who got taken out in the 2010 primaries by grassroots challengers. (Luckily for Grunwald there are plenty of those.)
This setup is I think designed to solve the narrative problem of the 2010 elections, which were a landslide for not just Republicans but a particular class of spending-averse, small-government Republicans. Grunwald could attempt to engage with that landslide, but why bother? Republicans are a "very narrow party of angry people" who engage in "groupthink" and have "said good riddance to the center." Dealing with Republicans is like "diplomacy with the Iranians." So their victories against Democrats must not be a true reflection of rational voter will. The people in the voting booths only feel like they're unemployed, overtaxed, overindebted, or all three. It's not possible that Grunwald's all-star sources (whose own grasp of Keynes' general theory is never to be assumed) have sold him a bag of shinola.
No, it turns out "the voters had a skewed view of what Obama had done, which suggested a failure to communicate."
Grunwald believes the overselling of stimulus "jobs" promises is at the root of that communications failure. (By the way, that theory—that we just don't understand how Obama has helped us—is one you've already heard a few times prior to this week's Democratic National Convention and will probably hear again over the next few days.)
So what should they have been selling instead? In the book (I warned you it was a long one!), all the above is crudely stapled to an argument that the real value of the stimulus is in the "change" it will bring us. Some examples:
bullet trains designed to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco in under three hours, broadband cables designed to bring rural towns into the wired world, electronic health records designed to drag medical bureaucracy out of the leeches era, smart dishwashers designed to run when electricity is cheapest, automated factories that will manufacture electric trucks in Indiana instead of China, the first U.S. testing facility for wind turbine blades as long as football fields…research into a new generations of "space taxis" that might replace NASA's shuttle someday.
Many of these game-changers will be incubated by the book's unlikely killer app: Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. According to Grunwald, the Energy Department's newly created ARPA-E, which takes only 0.05 of the Recovery Act's budget, is a "new Manhattan Project in a rounding error." And if all that doesn't convince you that Grunwald writes the kind of prose you'd expect to find in a Biden campaign mailer, note that all the usual economic clichés—"Armageddon," "catastrophe," "virtual lockdown," "last line of defense," and so on—are deployed throughout the book.
There's chutzpah in writing with a straight face that the Recovery Act's green energy pork was the best thing about it. That portion of the book may remain unique. The rest is not really distinguishable from the messaging the president laid out in his interview with Time—a vague excuse about how things could have been worse. In this case, I think the president's preference not to discuss any topics that might begin with S and end with O-L-Y-N-D-R-A is the wiser choice.
The New New Deal has already generated a few headlines thanks to its very first words, a dedication in which Grunwald refers to his wife as "my stimulus." When a New Republic writer had some fun with that line, Grunwald replied, "Wow. Some no-heart, no-humor dude @tnr attacks the DEDICATION of my book. Damn right Cristina's my stimulus. And FU."
At the risk of inviting more angry tweets, I'll engage Grunwald's very last words, when he closes his Note On Sources by saying, "I'm confident that this book is the truth. But again, I realize it's not the whole truth."
Thanks, Grunwald. I think we already got that.