“A Promised Land” by Barack Obama (3)

Barack Obama’s presidency began at the height of the subprime mortgage fiasco in the housing market which occasioned a triple economic crisis: the worst recession since the Great Depression, a near collapse of the banking system, and an impending bankruptcy of America’s leading car manufacturers. The stock market had lost 40% of its value and unemployment would eventually reach 10%.

The recession was addressed by the 1,073-page American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which was passed in the first month with “precisely zero Republican votes” in the House and just three GOP votes in the Senate in spite of Obama’s heroic efforts to reach across the aisle.

The housing crisis was countered by the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) and the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). The banking system held up following a bold formula of institutional stress tests carried out by the Federal Reserve. And the car industry survived with General Motors being restructured and Chrysler going into partnership with Fiat.

Obama acknowledges that “my administration’s handling of the financial crisis still generates fierce debate“. He explains that: “For many thoughtful critics … the fact that I had engineered a return to pre-crisis normalcy is precisely the problem – a missed opportunity if not an outright betrayal”.

He is honest with readers: “I wonder whether I should have been bolder in those early months”. But he concludes: “my first hundred days in office revealed a basic strand of my political character. I was a reformer, conservative in temperament if not in vision”.


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