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President Obama Weighs His Economic Legacy

Posted by Steve Schram on April 28, 2016 at 10:33 AM

Originally published on April 28, 2016 on The New York Times by Andrew Ross Sorkin.

Two months ago, across an assembly-room table in a factory in Jacksonville, Fla., President Barack Obama was talking to me about the problem of political capital. His efforts to rebuild the U.S. economy from the 2008 financial crisis were being hit from left, right and center. And yet, by his own assessment, those efforts were vastly underappreciated. “I actually compare our economic performance to how, historically, countries that have wrenching financial crises perform,” he said. “By that measure, we probably managed this better than any large economy on Earth in modern history.”

It was a notably grand claim, especially given the tenor in which presidential candidates of both parties had taken to criticizing the state of the American economy — “Many are still barely getting by,” Hillary Clinton said, while Donald Trump said that “we’re a third-world nation.” Asked if he was frustrated by all the criticism, Obama insisted that he wasn’t, at least not personally. “It has frustrated me only insofar as it has shaped the political debate,” he said. “We were moving so fast early on that we couldn’t take victory laps. We couldn’t explain everything we were doing. I mean, one day we’re saving the banks; the next day we’re saving the auto industry; the next day we’re trying to see whether we can have some impact on the housing market.”

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