The unemployment rate is falling, consumer confidence is soaring, and his would-be Republican rivals have detoured from business issues to bedroom ones. He’s spent the last several days talking tough on Iran. When President Obama takes the lectern for a White House news conference Tuesday afternoon, you could excuse him if he’s not expecting to field his usual barrage of questions about the economy.
Reporters should barrage him anyway. The recovery is picking up steam, yes, but plenty of questions persist about the state of the economy and the president’s management of it.
Here are four burning economic issues the White House press corps should put to Obama.
*How durable is the recovery, and how worried is he that high oil prices could slow or scuttle it? Rising gasoline costs helped drag down what had been a promising half-year of growth at this point in 2011. Now they appear headed even higher than a year ago. Does Obama have a contingency plan in case history repeats? Put another way, if the recovery needs more juice – again – where will it come from?
*How much, if at all, is the administration considering economic and fiscal impacts as it weighs its options for dealing with Iran? There are plenty of ways that a military strike on Iran’s nuclear program could disrupt global oil markets and send gasoline prices soaring even further. A broader war with Iran would almost certainly add, perhaps substantially, to America’s already gaping federal budget deficit. Is Obama thinking about those effects, or does he believe they do not belong in a national security discussion?
* This “Buffett Rule” Obama loves so much – what is it, exactly? What would it look like if written into the tax code? So far, Obama and his advisers have declined to detail the rule, which holds that upper-income taxpayers should pay no lower rate than middle-class taxpayers, as anything beyond a basic principle to guide tax reform. So let’s hear some details: How would the president structure what amounts to an updated version of the Alternative Minimum Tax? How much revenue would that raise? Would the tax increase slow the recovery, and if so, how much?
*Whom would he like to see as the next head of the World Bank? And must that candidate be an American? (Bonus points to any reporter who asks Obama to categorically rule out nominating Hillary Clinton or Larry Summers.)
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