How radical is Obamanomics?
Recession, stagnant wages, rising unemployment, financial meltdown...these are the issues that propelled Obama to victory and that demand answers now. There is no shortage of pledges either: but whether they amount to a coherent programme to meet the recession and financial meltdown is a different issue.
Obama's economic programme was a blatant pitch to working class America: tax the rich more, everybody else less, boost the economy with infrastructure spending, a windfall tax - and of course a crackdown on high finance. The problem is, how to pay for it?
The national debt clock in Times Square, which measures America's overdraft, has run out of noughts. The USA is $10 trillion in the red now and that will rise to 11 trillion as a result of the banking bailout. They had to remove the dollar symbol to make room for the figure one when it passed 9.9 trillion!
The annual budget deficit has also spiralled, driven by tax cuts and the doubling of military spending: it stood at zero when George Bush took office, it is now $438bn.
The state of America's finances means Obama will either have to raise taxes or cut public spending. If not immediately, the over the next four years. For all the detail in his economic plan, this is the one issue where the details look vague.
For now Obama has to be in crisis mode: bailing out the carmakers, pushing an economic stimulus package though congress before he takes office, and preparing a bigger one to follow.
With the economy the number one issue, who Obama picks to run it will define the administration...
The last two Democratic presidents put free-marketeers in charge of the economy: Carter installed Paul Volcker at the Fed to unleash recession and a monetary shock in 1979; and Clinton's Treasury secretary Larry Summers oversaw the sweeping deregulation of the finance industry, and of course Clinton kept Greenspan on board at the Fed.
Both Volcker and Summers are part of Obama's backroom economics team. But the team also new kids on the block, economists Austan Goolsbee and Jason Furman. They're part of the generation that brought us Freakonomics: more focused on how policy can effect behaviour at the micro level, less dogmatic about free-markets while remaining broadly within the free-market arena.
Obama is the modern first president who's come to power largely free from commitments to corporate interest groups and lobbyists. So he looks centre-left.
Much of his economic programme is inspired by the so called "new social economics": adapting freemarket principles into policies focused on micro-level changes in a complex world. What is not obvious, even now, is a guiding principle to replace the neo-liberalism of the old regime, which has collapsed.
Obama's economic programme was a series of pledges: on health, on union rights, on taxes and job creation. His task now it to go beyond that and outline a strategy to guide the world's biggest economy through the biggest crisis it has ever seen.
The answer to the question: how radical is Obamanomics? We don't know, yet.