Shopper Monica Eaves, with her daughter, Sophia, 2, shops for holiday gifts at The Grove outdoor mall in Los Angeles on Tuesday. A strong start to the holiday season is raising confidence that the consumer is back and that 2011 could be a better year for the economy than expected. AP Photographer/AP hide caption

itoggle caption AP Photographer/AP

President Obama walks at the White House with presidential debt commission co-chairs Erskine Bowles (left) and Alan Simpson. Alex Wong/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Johnson (center) signs the Medicare Act in 1965 as former President Harry Truman (right) looks on. Now the cost of Medicare threatens to crush the federal budget. LBJ Library/National Archives hide caption

itoggle caption LBJ Library/National Archives

Pamphlets with information about unemployment are displayed in a career center in Oakland, Calif. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America hide caption

itoggle caption Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America

People search for jobs in an employment office in El Centro, Calif. More than 6 million people in the U.S. have been out of work for six months or longer. Mark Ralston/AFP hide caption

itoggle caption Mark Ralston/AFP

Last month in Des Moines, Iowa, President Obama held a backyard discussion on the economy. With unemployment near 10 percent, the president and his fellow Democrats have had trouble touting positive economic news -- like the lower-than-expected TARP bill. Rodney White/AP/The Des Moines Register hide caption

itoggle caption Rodney White/AP/The Des Moines Register