The Hope Train ’rounds the bend on its trip to that house upon a rock


[See note at bottom that explains what “Hope Train” posts are, and are not.]

(via: AP):

“In the speech, the president juggles a glass-half-full take on the economy with a determination to not be seen as naive about how well things are going.”

Talk about juggling glass-half-full takes, the AP reporter who wrote that sentence should run away to Ringling Brothers.

I have no idea what the sentence means, but I’m guessing it has something to do with the actual speech President Obama delivered this morning. In it — I’ve read the text, but didn’t hear him deliver it and other than the AP story, have not read any punditry — the President, in a professorial and bullet-point fashion, retraces the steps he believes got us to this point and the actions that his Administration and Congress have taken since the inauguration.

He then presented a summation of what he believes the positive outcome of those actions are:

So all of these actions — the Recovery Act, the bank capitalization program, the housing plan, the strengthening of the non-bank credit market, the auto plan, and our work at the G20 — have been necessary pieces of the recovery puzzle. They have been designed to increase aggregate demand, get credit flowing again to families and businesses, and help them ride out the storm. And taken together, these actions are starting to generate signs of economic progress. Because of our recovery plan, schools and police departments have cancelled planned layoffs. Clean energy companies and construction companies are re-hiring workers to build everything from energy efficient windows to new roads and highways. Our housing plan has helped lead to a spike in the number of homeowners who are taking advantage of historically-low mortgage rates by refinancing, which is like putting a $2,000 tax cut in your in pocket. Our program to support the market for auto loans and student loans has started to unfreeze this market and securitize more of this lending in the last few weeks. And small businesses are seeing a jump in loan activity for the first time in months.

I have decided to call that paragraph, “The Hope Train Manifesto.” The next paragraph of his speech is what will hereafter be called, “The Hope Train Caveat”:

“This is all welcome and encouraging news, but it does not mean that hard times are over. 2009 will continue to be a difficult year for America’s economy. The severity of this recession will cause more job loss, more foreclosures, and more pain before it ends. The market will continue to rise and fall. Credit is still not flowing nearly as easily as it should. The process for restructuring AIG and the auto companies will involve difficult and sometimes unpopular choices. All of this means that there is much more work to be done. And all of this means that you can continue to expect an unrelenting, unyielding, day-by-day effort from this administration to fight for economic recovery on all fronts.

However, the Manifesto and Caveat are merely the mechanics of the Hope Train.

In his speech this morning, the President ended with what I will now call, “Glimmers of Hope: The Official Hope Train Hymn” (yet to be scored by is this soaring poetry that would make Roosevelt, Kennedy, Reagan (and New Testament readers) proud:

“There is no doubt that times are still tough. By no means are we out of the woods just yet. But from where we stand, for the very first time, we are beginning to see glimmers of hope. And beyond that, way off in the distance, we can see a vision of an America’s future that is far different than our troubled economic past. It’s an America teeming with new industry and commerce; humming with new energy and discoveries that light the world once more. A place where anyone from anywhere with a good idea or the will to work can live the dream they’ve heard so much about. It is that house upon the rock. Proud, sturdy, and unwavering in the face of the greatest storm. We will not finish it in one year or even many, but if we use this moment to lay that new foundation; if we come together and begin the hard work of rebuilding; if we persist and persevere against the disappointments and setbacks that will surely lie ahead, then I have no doubt that this house will stand and the dream of our founders will live on in our time.”

(A note of clarification to those who have e-mailed me thinking these Hope Train posts are tracking anything that may indicate the economy is improving. They are not. They are tracking (granted, with a goofy label) the challenge the White House has in projecting an optimistic message about the economy (something I believe is important) while still managing expectations and the need to promote additional stimulus measures that will need to be explained to a dubious Congress and citizenry. I personally have no idea where we are along the road to recovery (or into the abyss), although I’m on record as saying we’ve already hit bottom (the technical point at which a recession “ends” but not, necessarily when it begins charging towards recovery). Personally, I tend not to plan for the best or plan for the worst. I try to plan on finding opportunity whatever happens. And I turn off CNBC whether they are hyping the market up or panic-mongering it down. So please, if you’re into pessimism porn, that’s a topic unrelated to the Hope Train so don’t feel like you need to send me links. I see them every day, believe me.)