A dozen years ago, just before Barack Obama was sworn in as president amid the Great Recession, I wrote a disconsolate column titled “The Obama Gap.” At a time when many viewed the president-elect as a transformational figure, I lamented the caution of his economic policy. His proposed stimulus, I argued, would fall well short of what was needed.
Sadly, I was right. And as I also warned at the time, Obama didn’t get a second chance; the perceived failure of his economic policy, which mitigated the slump but didn’t decisively end it, closed off the possibility of further major action.
The good news — and it’s really, really good news — is that Democrats seem to have learned their lesson. Joe Biden may not look like the second coming of F.D.R.; Chuck Schumer, presiding over a razor-thin majority in the Senate, looks even less like a transformational figure; yet all indications are that together they’re about to push through an economic rescue plan that, unlike the Obama stimulus, truly rises to the occasion.