One has to feel for his luck. The recession was not of his making; it began 14 months before his inauguration, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. But what was then a joyous recovery just five months laterwith growth peaking at almost 4% annualised at the beginning of 2010occurred too soon from where Mr Obama stands now. Still, the economy could well rebound from here. That is why growth should not be the presidents main concern. His biggest problem actually lies with Americas 75m-odd owner-occupied housing units, 65% of which come with mortgages. Why Because he risks alienating a huge proportion of voters no matter what he doesor does not doto deal with the roughly quarter of mortgages currently under water. It is unlikely that house prices will recover enough to ease the negative equity problem before next November.
Some policymakers, therefore, believe loan modifications are needed to boost the economy. Others reckon such interventions distort the market, hampering long-term recovery. If Obama guns for the former, hardworking Americans who never overstretched themselves will surely be angry. Doing nothing guarantees continuing pain for millions. Patience is the only solution. But politics has no time for that.