On today's edition of CBS' Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer asked an odd question of guest and Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons: "Do you think, looking back on it, the president would have been better off if he had simply concentrated first on jobs and then moved to some of these other issues like health care?"
Schieffer seems to have forgotten that within a month of taking office, President Obama had pushed through a stimulus package to "stop the downward spiral" and save or create millions of jobs, with the support of only three Republicans. Schieffer repeatedly described the legislative package as "enormous" back in February 2009. In July 2009, eight months before Obama signed the health care reform bill, Schieffer said that Obama had "embarked on all these different programs to improve the economy."
Many private analysts agree that the stimulus significantly raised employment over what it would be otherwise, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated in August that as of the second quarter of 2010, the stimulus has "[i]ncreased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million."
Even Rush Limbaugh agrees that fixing the economy was a higher priority at the start of the Obama administration than health care; the Washington Examiner's Byron York quoted Limbaugh on July 24, 2009, as saying that "we better thank our lucky stars that they did the stimulus first. Because if they had done [health care] first, it would be signed into law already. He would have gotten it." York added, "there's no doubt that the president spent much of his early political capital on the stimulus, and now he needs it back -- badly."
The health care reform debate was certainly more drawn-out and visible than that over the stimulus. Indeed, the quick passage of the stimulus resulted in part because it was such a high priority and Obama's team began drawing it up before he took office. But it's misleading to suggest that just because Obama passed health care reform this year, the economy and jobs weren't his first priority. This type of media coverage might help explain why so few Americans realize that the stimulus package cut their taxes.