Hope Train goes warp speed

hopetrain.jpg

I don’t envy the President and his economic team. No longer must they merely balance the optimism/pessimism message (the optimistic “Hope Train” message to prop up the nation’s psyche and the pessimism message to get congress to enact more stimulus legislation), they must now add a third knife to their juggling act. (Wow! trains and juggling metaphors in one post.) Now, they have to add some “pitchfork populism” spin to every interview and speech. I had never heard the term pitchfork populism until the NashvillePost.com’s Adam Kleinheider applied it to my post last week regarding how alarming I found the willingness of anti-tax zealots to pivot their position within the time-frame of a couple of news cycles.

I can only imagine how difficult it will be to handle the spin on the measure being announced this morning as it will mean private investors could make lots of money investing in government-backed “toxic” bank holdings. In a couple of years, when investors in those toxic assets are buying back their private jets with the returns on their investment, will Congress want to claw back the windfalls via the tax code? Or will investors want to invest in them, knowing such a threat exists? Such are the unintended consequences of pitchfork populism.

Nevertheless, I’d like to point out some Hope Train comments made yesterday that shout loudly the White House knows something we don’t. First, Christina Romer, head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, told CNN she had “every expectation, as do private forecasters, that we will bottom out this year and actually be growing again by the end of the year.”

And then, on 60 Minutes, the President said: “Now, there’s a potential silver lining, which may be that things are so accelerated now, the modern economy is so intertwined and wired, that things happen really fast for ill, but things may recover faster than they have in the past.”

You don’t have to be a Kremlinologist to read between the lines of that comment.

He’s saying, it could be a Hope Bullet Train.

Bernanke hops aboard the Hope Train

hopetrain.jpg

In an extremely rare media interview with a Federal Reserve Board chairman, Ben Bernanke said the U.S. has averted the risk of plunging into a depression. “I think we’ve gotten past that,” he said. Not quite as poetic as, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” but it is enough to grant Chairman Bernanke a ride on the Hope Train*. As the recovery now has a website, a Whip Recession Now logo, all it needs is some help for small businesses and who knows, maybe more people will start thinking we can, thinking we can, thinking we can.

Developing, or should I say, chugging.

*Hope Train posts “track” the journey of President Obama and other government officials as they shift their “messaging” from one of “fear” of the economy to one of “hope” for the economy.

Summers hops on board the Hope Train

hopetrain.jpg

This morning, President Obama’s top economics advisor Lawrence Summers delivered a talk at the Brookings Institution during which he fell to one knee and burst out singing, “The sun’ll come up tomorrow; bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun.” OK. I made up that one-knee and singing part. However, according to the New York Times, he said he sees, “early signs that the economic crisis was beginning to ease (but) emphasized that the crisis would not end anytime soon.”

Quote:

“Our problems were not made in a day or a month or a year, and they will not be solved quickly…But there is one enduring lesson of the history of financial crises: they all end.”

Carson Robinson’s
Depression-era satirical ditty:
“Prosperity is Just Around the Corner.”

So the White House has come a long way since February 9 when the President said the U.S. economy risked sinking into a “negative spiral” and that “We are going through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression” and used Japan’s “lost decade” as a comparison for what could happen if Congress didn’t pass his stimulus bill.

Now that the stimulus plan has not only been signed into law, but has it’s own website and logo, we should be seeing prosperity just around the corner, but as Carson Robinson sang in 1932, “Which corner?”

Whip Recession Now, the logo

recoverylogo-20090306-154458For those who don’t know the government has declared an end to the economic crisis, there is now an official logo to remind you. It’s the logo on the left that has a circle around some stars, a plant and some gears.

I’m not sure, but I’m guessing the stars represent the sky through which big corporate CEOs fly their private jets. The plant is poison ivy and represents toxic assets. And the gears represent that we’re all just little cogs in a giant global economic system. If you’ll notice, the center of the gear at the right bottom features a small phillips head indention, symbolizing the fact that we’re all screwed. That or it’s a small cross suggesting that some divine intervention is necessary to get the economy re-started.

According to the Wall Street Journal, projects undertaken under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will all bear the logo, which it says is similar to posters that were used for New Deal projects during the early 1930s. However, I’d note that New Deal projects were “branded” with the Blue Eagle of the National Recovery Administration, which, not to be a spoil-sport or anything, was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1935. Nevertheless, the Blue Eagle and the slogan, “We Do Our Part” became quite the fashion statement at the time.

Speaking of branded economic policy, I was in college when Gerald Ford declared “inflation” as public enemy #1 and launched the “Whip Inflation Now” campaign, complete with WIN buttons. Alan Greenspan, who was Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors at the time, later admitted that he thought, “This is unbelievably stupid” when Whip Inflation Now was first presented.

It’s not that I don’t like the symbolism of the new Whip Recession Now logo, but I’ve decided to stick with my own Hope Train logo.

The Hope Train is chugging along

election2008.jpg

[Note: “Hope Train” posts celebrate President Obama’s journey from mongering “fear” of the economy to preaching “hope” for the economy.]

I hear the Hope Train a-comin’ whenever I read a headline that begins: “Obama suggests buying stocks.”

Quote: “After being accused for weeks of being too negative about the economy, Obama recently has shifted to a more positive tone. He and his aides still say recovery won’t come quickly, but they are becoming more aggressive in declaring that the government’s efforts will work.”

Is it working? Well, apparently the American people are liking what they’re hearing from the President: A new poll from the Wall Street Journal (conducted after the Hope Train pulled out of the station during the President’s address to Congress on February 24) indicates he’s “resonating with the American people despite the economic crisis.” (Despite the timing of the poll after the President boarded the Hope Train, I’m willing to admit his high ratings are more likely “honeymoon” than Hope Train influenced.)

littlehope.jpg

The Conductor-in-Chief
says, ‘All aboard’
the Hope Train.

Speaking of the Hope Train, Fed Chairman Bernanke was riding the same rails today, announcing a $200 billion program to spur lending for autos, education, credit cards and consumer loans. “If the program succeeds, it should help break economy-crippling credit clogs and make it easier for Americans to finance purchases large and small at lower rates, Bernanke said.”

Unfortunately, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s ticket on the Hope Train must not have arrived in time for him to get on board. This morning, he told the House Ways and Means Committee that President Barack Obama’s administration inherited “the worst fiscal situation in American history.” The worst in American history? Even worse than when the pioneers had nothing to eat but pine cones and field mice? Or worse than when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? I think not. Secretary Geithner: Get on this train.

Bonus: Following up my recent post, This may be the hippest recession ever, here’s a link to some McSweeny satire: – “This Recession is Awesome.”.

Later: This post was written Tuesday night. On Wednesday morning, it appears that the world’s stock markets are hoping aboard the Hope Train — at least for day-trip.