- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 3, 2009

President Obama used an old George Bush argument Tuesday to refute charges that his policies are driving the U.S. economy downward, telling reporters that the daily stock market index is akin to opinion polls, which he said are not all that important.

“The stock market is sort of like a tracking poll in politics. You know, it bobs up and down day to day. And if you spend all your time worrying about that, then you’re probably going to get the long-term strategy wrong,” Mr. Obama said, taking questions in the Oval Office after meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

“What I’m looking at is not the day-to-day gyrations of the stock market, but the long-term ability for the United States and the entire world economy to regain its footing,” Mr. Obama said.

This is not the first time in recent days that Mr. Obama has used the old Bush line, which critics said showed that Mr. Bush was stubborn and arrogant. During an interview last week with Jim Lehrer, Mr. Obama said that his decisions to keep as many as 50,000 troops in Iraq through 2011 was not based on polls or popularity.

“I make the decisions based on what I think is best,” Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Bush, whom Mr. Obama frequently criticized during his time as a U.S. senator and presidential candidate, often spoke of his disdain for opinion polls when faced with questions about his own policies.

“As to whether or not I make decisions based upon polls, I don’t. I just don’t make decisions that way,” Mr. Bush said at a 2004 press conference. “If I tried to fine-tune my messages based upon polls, I think I’d be pretty ineffective.”

Mr. Obama’s economic policies — his $787 billion stimulus plan, his plans to help banks and stem foreclosures, his $3.6 trillion budget, and even his steadily grim pronouncements about economic pain ahead — have come under increasing criticism from a series of financial analysts who are stars on NBC’s financial news TV channel, CNBC, as well as from conservative lawmakers and economists.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average has dropped almost 1,500 points since Mr. Obama’s inauguration just over a month ago, and nearly 3,000 points since his election on Nov. 4.

“The stock market is the country right now. This is where people’s wealth is; this is their pension plans, their 401(k)s and IRAs,” said CNBC’s Jim Cramer during a Tuesday morning appearance on NBC’s “Today” show.

On Monday night, Mr. Cramer attributed much of the blame for the stock market’s continued decline to the Obama agenda.

“I just want some sign that Obama realizes the market is totally falling apart — and that his agenda has a big hand in that happening,” Mr. Cramer said.

Daniel Mitchell, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, said the markets have had “an allergic reaction” every time Mr. Obama’s economic advisers talk about White House policies.

“Higher taxes, more spending and increased intervention are a recipe for turning America into a stagnant, European-style welfare state. No wonder private capital is on strike, withdrawing from the American economy,” Mr. Mitchell said.

CNBC analyst Larry Kudlow said over the weekend that Mr. Obama was declaring war on investors, entrepreneurs, small businesses, large corporations, and private-equity and venture-capital funds.

The first major backlash to Mr. Obama’s economic plans also came on CNBC, when analyst Rick Santelli ranted on the floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange about Mr. Obama’s plan to stem home foreclosures, complaining that he was taking money from responsible Americans and giving it to those who had acted irresponsibly.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs responded publicly to Mr. Santelli, accusing him of not reading the plan or knowing its details.

Mr. Obama said during his question-and-answer session Tuesday that these critics are focused too much on the short term and that he sees hopeful signs emerging.

“Profit-and-earning ratios are starting to get to the point where buying stocks is a potentially good deal if you’ve got a long-term perspective on it. I think that consumer confidence, as they see the [stimulus deal] taking root, businesses are starting to see opportunities for investment and potential hiring,” Mr. Obama said.

The Obama administration says that the stimulus package will create or save 3.5 million jobs by the end of 2010.

Mr. Brown backed Mr. Obama up during his comments to reporters.

“I think the history books will record that what he has done in his first nearly 50 days of office has been momentous in setting the means by which we can see the economic recovery happening,” Mr. Brown said.

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