From the moment Obama entered office, the most important priority on his desk was the financial crisis. By the winter of 2008, the stock market had decreased in value by 40 percent, 2.3 million homes had been foreclosed upon, and household wealth in the nation had dropped five times more than it had during the Great Depression. To deal with the stress, Obama began smoking up to ten cigarettes a day.
Obama's first act was to propose a fiscal stimulus bill, which was intended to jumpstart the economy, while offering extended benefits, like food stamps, unemployment insurance, tax cuts, and aid for state employers, to Americans. Unfortunately, Obama was facing a hostile Congress. Middle-of-the-road, bipartisan politics had been abandoned in favor of more extreme right-wing politicians, led by Mitch McConnell, who refused to compromise with Democrats on anything.
Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, was dull, rude, and unapologetically partisan. Although Obama strived to reach across the aisle, he was met with resistance. McConnel even pressured his caucus to not even speak to other staff members about the stimulus bill. His main goal was not to help suffering Americans but to prevent Obama from accomplishing anything that would deem him a success. Following McConnell's lead, not a single Republican voted for Obama's Recovery Act. While it did pass thanks to the number of Democrats in the House, the immediate resistance to the bill set the tone for the Republican's conduct for the rest of Obama's presidency. America only continued to become more politically divided.
But America wasn't the only country affected by the fiscal crisis. The entire world was affected by the financial crisis, and as the 2009 G20 summit was approaching, the economy would be the main talking point. Prior to the London summit, Obama met with the Secretary of the Treasury, Tim Geithner. His goal was to convince the world leaders at the G20, including Russia and China, that the best way to solve the financial crisis was through fiscal stimulus.
Obama would also be meeting world leaders he had never met before. He struck up a fast friendship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom Obama described as a patient and methodical leader. Obama also met the French President, Nicolas Sarközy, who appeared to be Merkel's opposite. He was prone to emotional outbursts and wore lifts in his shoes. After the G20 finally struck a stimulus deal, Sarkozy struck up a chant of Geithner's name.