“The evidence is that the Recovery Act is helping,” he says, munching pretzels in his spacious but not ostentatious office, adorned with photos of his two daughters, ages seven and ten, adopted from China. (One of them presumably left the mischievous post-it note on the door saying, “My dad is NOT in a meeting.” He also has a twenty-five-year-old daughter.)
“There is no conceivable recovery package on earth that would have taken us from the hole we were in to a totally recovered economy,” he says. “The gaps in GDP and employment were too large, the damage too deep. But we certainly got things back moving in the right direction and we will just have to make sure we keep moving there as we go forward.”
But could we have moved forward more quickly with a larger stimulus package, as Krugman, Stiglitz, and others had advocated? Bernstein says the $787 billion to be spent over two years was the “largest package the system could bear.”
“We think the economy is going to expand at a rate of about 2 percent next year, and 3.8 percent in 2011,” he says. “We think the unemployment rate is going to peak at a rate perhaps above 10 percent on a monthly basis before it begins to come down sometime around mid-2010. We’re going to be stuck with a tough labor market in the short term.”
“If the economy is not lifting wages, adding jobs, incomes, lifting everyone who wants to work, it’s not a recovery from our perspective,” he adds. “The way we define recovery is consistent robust monthly job growth delivering wage and income gains to the broad middle class, broadly shared prosperity. That’s what we’re shooting for.”
But Bernstein’s ability to achieve this goal may be limited.
“It’s one thing for him to be for something, another to persuade the Administration, and another for the Administration to adopt it and persuade Congress,” says Pollin. “We can’t just assume Obama will hear Jared say something and say, ‘Oh, Jared that’s great, let’s do that.’ You need a progressive movement making demands. That will strengthen Jared’s voice within the administration.”
Kari Lydersen's whole story appears in the December/January 2010 issue. Subscribe to The Progressive for just $14.97 by clicking here for immediate access.