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Shields and Brooks Mull Economic Expectations, Afghan Policy

Columnists Mark Shields and David Brooks examine the outcome of the banking stress test results, U.S. policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan and remember the life of Jack Kemp.

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    Finally tonight, the analysis of Shields and Brooks, and to Jeffrey Brown.


    And that's, of course, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Hello, gentlemen.

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:



    Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke on Tuesday says things — there are signs that things are better, but caution. Yesterday's stress tests, everybody passes, but caution. Today, jobs, better, caution. How's the administration, Mark, doing at managing expectations?


    I think reasonably well. I mean, they're walking a tightrope between maintaining their own credibility and at the same time not dousing what limited optimism has emerged from these events.

    I mean, Chairman Bernanke was probably unexpected blessing, in the sense that he was more optimistic, more bullish about the economy's improving, even weakly, by the end of the year.

    And the stress test, I think, was something else. I'd be happy to talk about that.

    But on the number of jobs we've lost this year, we've lost 2.6 million jobs this year. I mean, so you say that 539,000 is less than — considerably less, 200,000 less than were lost in January, but it's — you know, it's tough to say it's good news. There's certainly no reason to click your heels. More than 539,000 Americans who had jobs to go to the first of the month don't have a job to go to Monday morning.


    So it's a fine line, David?

  • DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:

    Yes, it's tough to rally the country holding up the banner of limited optimism. I mean, that's just a tough act. But I think it accurately reflects where the economy is.

    But I do think there's been a shift in their tone and certainly within their internal deliberation. The period of just freefall is over. The period of crisis is over, I think.

    And now they are beginning to think about the recovery, the long, slow, very gradual recovery. And so they're beginning to — to think about the policies they're going to enact when the economy is sort of slowly crawling up, but not at a fast enough pace. So I think internally they've made a mental transition.


    They've made it and you feel like the signs we're hearing are really telling us that?


    Well, this could be a false dawn, of course, in which case we could fall back. But I think they're beginning to think, well, suppose the economy just peters along for two years. What do we do?

    And I think Geithner is beginning to think about that, how to pump money into small banks and things like that so they'll begin lending, even if the big New York banks don't begin lending. And so that's the sort of policy they're beginning to think about as a way to strengthen a very minor recovery.