Even in the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, New York knows how to throw a party. For most of yesterday hundreds of thousands of people made a sea of green that paraded up Fifth Avenue to mark St Patrick’s Day. Tens of thousands lined the street to watch them. The all-day party, fuelled by imports of Guinness and whiskey, seemed the more intensely engaged upon as an escape from omnipresent financial gloom.
Away from the party, the mood in America’s cultural and business capital is more firmly anchored in stark reality, and quite different from the euphoria that pervaded it when I was last here, on election day. President Obama still enjoys the popularity that comes with not being George Bush, especially in a city top-heavy with Democrats. But his initial response to the global calamity that he found on entering the Oval Office has not inspired popularity’s more sober elder brother, confidence. Large constituencies, notably business, are voicing their scepticism openly. The President’s much-vaunted $787 billion stimulus package is being widely interpreted, even by some of those (such as Warren Buffett, America’s second-richest man) who openly supported Mr Obama for the presidency, as a serious failure. And we are only just past the first 50 days.
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