WASHINGTON -- The old saying that money isn't everything seems to epitomize President Obama's inept attempts to jumpstart the economy by throwing $2 trillion to $3 trillion at it. Nothing appears to be working.
First, he signed a nearly $800 billion spending stimulus bill to pump money into the states through a retro-New Deal-style wave of public-works projects, and the financial markets tanked.
Then he announced a second effort to pump $275 billion to bailout subprime mortgage holders threatened with foreclosure and the biggest banks, already tottering toward insolvency, fell into an even steeper nosedive.
Then the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve unveiled yet another public-private economic-rescue plan to leverage $2 trillion or so to buy up toxic assets in the financial industry and other businesses teetering on the edge. It was the administration's second attempt to sell a warmed-over plan that failed to impress Wall Street and the global financial markets. Investors here and abroad fled U.S. equities in droves.
No matter what President Obama has done thus far, he has failed to lift the mood of deepening pessimism that blankets the investment community and the wider economy.
As the week opened, all of the stock-market indexes were continuing their rapid descent, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average sliding toward 7,000.
There were as many explanations for all this as there were economic analysts, but it all came down to one common denominator -- confidence -- and the administration wasn't providing it.
"The biggest thing I see here is the incredible pessimism. The government is doing a lousy job of alleviating fears," complained Keith Springer, president of Capital Financial Advisory Services.
Indeed, there seemed to be only messages of doom-and-gloom coming out of the government. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is pushing off recovery until 2010, possibly 2011. Obama and his top advisers were saying it could be years before the economy turns around, maybe not until his term is over.
For the man who had expressed admiration for President Reagan's eternal optimism, Obama's economic rhetoric seemed stuck in the 2008 campaign offensive.
"I just would like him to end by saying that he is hopeful and completely convinced we're gonna come through this," former President Bill Clinton suggested last week.