As I promised, I am offering more of my own thoughts about President Obama, and, more precisely, the avalanche of reader comments to my recent blog about the president's impact on the industry, along with our corresponding web poll.
First, I want to say something about the web poll. In my first response blog, someone made a comment that the web poll was not scientific and was basically just a "game." I definitely admit that our web poll was in no way scientific. And we never implied that it was. Also, the results of such a poll are just what they are - a sampling of what people who chose to respond felt. No more, no less.
Also, one person commented that this first survey question -- What do you think of President Obama's impact on the construction industry? -- was too broad, and a few people offered interesting suggestions for future survey questions. I like that kind of feedback, and in the spirit of giving you what you ask for, look for more of these survey questions in the near future.
My comments on the comments. Over the past year, I've interviewed and talked to numerous sources about the stimulus--the topic that's most closely associated with President Obama--and most have had fairly positive things to say about its impact on the construction activity. The main criticism has been that it's insufficient and too slow to roll out. I've heard nothing to the effect that it is having a negative impact on construction activity. That's not to say that other criticism isn't valid, but I was a bit surprised at the high percentage of negativity.
Now, here are some of my own quick thoughts and observations about these reader comments.
1) While I certainly understand the concern over deficit spending, I wonder where the concern was when the deficit was actually being created, during the previous presidential administration and Congress. Is the anger that is being directed at Obama on this matter a venting of bottled-up frustration that some conservatives felt they couldn't express while the previous Republican administration was in power? Or are the Obama critics merely being partisan and hypocritical? OR, I wonder, are they really right to voice these concerns now, despite their previous silence? (The possibility remains that the answer to all three of these questions is Yes.)
2) I was somewhat unclear from the comments if people were blaming President Obama for the current state of the construction industry or not. Some seemed like they were. Of those that were, it seemed that they were saying that what he has done has made things worse, and that if he had just done nothing, things would be better. Not sure if he'd get credit for doing nothing, though.
3) I recall a time right after the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act was signed into law, and I happened to be at a construction conference. I talked to a contractor and asked him what he thought of the stimulus. He didn't like it, as I recall, and he mentioned deficit spending as a prime concern. The next second, however, he said the government should give every taxpayer something along the lines of $40,000 and surely that would make everything right again. He was completely serious. So, I wonder if some people are protesting about the stimulus just because none of it is going to them.
5) As for the drumbeat of comments that Obama is a socialist.... I'd suggest reading the recent column from David Brooks, the "conservative" columnist for the New York Times, entitled "Getting Obama Right." In it, Brooks says both liberals and conservatives fail to understand--and portray--Obama as he really is. To Brooks, "Obama is as he always has been, a center-left pragmatic reformer. Every time he tries to articulate a grand philosophy ... he always describes a moderately activist government restrained by a sense of trade-offs.... Government should address problems without interfering with the dynamism of the market." I thought that was a pretty apt description.
5) Finally, I thought this reader comment from one Walter Smith was a good one to reflect upon: "I am here to say that most of the contractors, lawyers, real estate people and many others that I speak with do not blame Obama for how we got here. We blame him for being blind to see the capitalistic path out of this mess.... There are many to blame for getting us into this mess. George Bush and the Republicans enjoyed the construction boom. It kept the ecomony riding high while pushing the war agenda. Barney Frank and Chris Dodd told all of us that Fannnie and Freddie were fine."
So - What do you think? Let your thoughts be heard.