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Shields and Brooks Mull Economic Woes, Delegate Showdown

More gloomy news emerged about the U.S. economy this week while Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama braced for a tight battle for delegates -- and debated whether Florida and Michigan should re-do their primaries. Analysts Mark Shields and David Brooks consider the week in the news.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, who joins us tonight from New York City, and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    David, first of all, on the economy, we heard what Jane Bryant Quinn and David Wessel said, that it is — the political system is going to have to respond better than it has to the economic situation. Do you agree with that?

  • DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:

    I guess so. What struck me as they said that is how far away I think the political system is from actually coming up with a response.

    It's clear — everyone says the economy is bad, in recession, maybe a very bad recession. And there was, of course, the stimulus package. But the discussion of actually what to do in this liquidity crisis, I don't think we're even on first base as far as that discussion goes.

    And solving a standard recession is difficult enough. And the record for the fiscal policy for Congress is very poor and actually effectively addressing a regular recession. When you get in a recession where there's a liquidity crisis and where house prices are reaching a new equilibrium, that's much more complicated.

    And so I really have seen nothing in Congress or let alone on the campaign trail — which is, believe me, miles away from this discussion — that would actually be effective, that would inspire some confidence. They are clearly going to have to come up with something, but they're far away.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Do you agree, far away, no confidence, Mark, that they will do something, assist them?

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    Well, I think David's analysis is right, Jim. I'm not sure about his diagnosis. I'm not sure what the diagnosis is.

    But I will say this, that the American voters know how bad things are, and that they're getting worse, and that we have fewer than 1 out of 5 voters saying the country is headed in the right direction right now. But beyond that, for the first time since 1992, as a political reality, voters say they're worse off than they were four years ago.

    And this backdrop — I mean, if anybody who went to Ohio and covered that primary, I mean, really saw, I mean, a state that — it's more than down at the heels, worn down at the heels. It's got patches, and it's hurting. And I think that's true in several parts of the country.

    And I'd just add one thing, and that is the context of this election, Jim, where we're dealing with thorny, painful issues like immigration and like race, I would remind that when we dealt with it successfully in this country, in the decade of the 1960s, and ended official segregation, the nation's economy — it's gross national product was doubling in that decade.

    At a time of deprivation, when people are scared, they become more self-absorbed and selfish, and so the chances of getting solutions to those social and keen and acute social problems become less.