The New, New Obama: Deficit Buster

Big-spending president reinvents himself, or perhaps negative poll numbers did it for him.

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By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Want to hear a really good joke? The Associated Press reports:

President Barack Obama on Sunday vowed to take "serious steps" to cut the huge US budget deficit, which is complicating America's economic recovery hopes and threatening his own political prospects. Obama told Asia-Pacific leaders at a summit here that he intended to curtail US government debt, with the White House forecasting a whopping deficit of 1.502 trillion dollars in fiscal 2010.

The president who wants to be all things to all people (and who ends up standing for nothing as far as most Americans are concerned, as a result) is remaking himself once again. This time, he's morphing from out-of-control spender to fiscal hawk. Hah!

My bet is the president and his advisers are reading the polls and finding that, as in this Wall Street Journal piece by pollster Scott Rasmussen, they need to exercise some fiscal restraint or risk an even larger thrashing at the polls in 2010 than they received earlier this month:

Moreover, according to a poll released by the Kaufman Foundation in September, a plurality of voters (32%) think the federal government should cut tax rates on payrolls and businesses to stimulate employment, particularly at a time when unemployment is at double-digits. Mr. Obama campaigned on tax cuts for 95% of the American people, but according to a Rasmussen Reports poll released in mid-August, just 6% of likely voters expect to get a tax cut. Over 40% of respondents believe that they will get a tax increase....Unless Mr. Obama changes his approach and starts governing in a more fiscally conservative, bipartisan manner, the independents that provided his margin of victory in 2008 and gave the Democrats control of Congress will likely swing back to the Republicans, putting Democratic control of Congress in real jeopardy.

I give credit to Mr. Obama for trying to reach out to Republicans. He has caved considerably to their demands to moderate on social issues such as gay and abortion rights. For that, the GOP has given him little if any credit. Instead he should have moderated much sooner on spending and tax cuts, planning to spend less and cut taxes more. That is where the two parties enjoy the greatest opportunity to have a meeting of the minds. Tax and spending cuts would also keep wavering independents in the Democratic column for a lot longer.