[Update: 3 July 2010] Photo removed at the request of the subject.
The most frustrating thing about the ongoing financial crisis is the way in which it has sapped the ability of the Obama administration to do much of anything else. Even if he had inherited an economy in tip-top condition, there would have been an extremely lengthy list of things for Obama to work on: from foreign relations to domestic climate policy. As things stand, everything is taking a back seat to restoring the financial sector to some semblance of normality: an exercise in institutional repair that only has the potential to leave the country slightly better off than it was before the crisis began. A banking system more resistant to crises is a good thing to build, but doing so is ultimately a lot less impressive than reforming health care or pushing the economy firmly onto the track of long-term greenhouse gas reduction. It is, at best, damage control rather than meaningful reform.
Of course, presidents need to deal with the circumstances they encounter. Harold Macmillan may have been right to call ‘events’ the greatest challenge faced by statesmen. Still, one cannot help feeling disappointed at seeing the energies and talents of this administration being primarily directed towards sorting out some errors of lax regulation and oversight which blew up the global economy, rather than making good on its progressive potential. We can only hope that the bank recovery will work, the economy will get back on its feet, and there will be time enough left to take action on other fronts.