By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
The president did a great job last night at his second prime-time press conference. He has a very reassuring way of speaking, one that is instructive and (at least so far) not lecturing. His closing remarks on the value of patience and persistence were right on the mark.
President Obama held the press conference because he knows there is a lot of anxiety among voters right now. I think he might be misunderstanding the source of that anxiety. Let me explain:
We all know families who have been affected by layoffs, the housing crisis, and the bear market on Wall Street, and those things certainly are creating a lot of fear. But there seems to be just as much nervousness among Americans about the sky-high spending levels the president proposes as "inseparable from this recovery."
Those fears were reflected in some of the questions from reporters last night. A typical one from CNN: whether the president worried "that your daughters, not to mention the next president, will be inheriting an even bigger fiscal mess if the spending goes out of control." AP, CBS, Fox and NBC asked similar questions about the president's budget and spending proposals.
When the president said last night that his budget will cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term, the crowd in our family room started laughing. People understand that too much spending and too much borrowing got us into this mess, and they understandably fear that more spending and borrowing will not get us out of it.
While the president was preparing for the press conference yesterday, moderate Democrats in the House and Senate "are performing major surgery" on the President's budget, "in an effort to bring skyrocketing annual deficits under control" reports this morning's Washington Post. The Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee will unveil details of the alternative budget today, and reportedly it'll cut hundred of billions from the President's spending over the next five years. Republicans should jump on that train, and fast.
Three of those Democrats in the Senate—Evan Bayh, Tom Carper and Blanche Lincoln—wrote an op-ed this morning explaining why they're offering alternatives to the President's agenda. Here's the most interesting quote:
Beyond the chessboard of the Senate, nearly half of the U.S. electorate calls itself moderate, and more than half of the rest identify themselves as conservative. That means Democrats could capture every liberal vote and half of the moderates and still lose at the polls. Many independents voted for President Obama and the contours of his change agenda, but they will not rubber-stamp it. They are wary of ideological solutions and are overwhelmingly pragmatic.
President Obama is fond of saying that those who oppose his spending proposals are in favor of doing nothing. "The alternative is to stand pat," he said again last night. At this point, I don't think anyone is advocating doing absolutely nothing.
Most people I know—many of whom include themselves among those moderate and conservative voters Sen. Bayh is referring to—would support a reasonable plan that includes long-term investments in energy, education and infrastructure while somehow addressing rising health care costs. By "reasonable plan" I mean one that doesn't add trillions and trillions to our deficit for the next decade.
A reasonable plan would go a long way toward reassuring nervous Americans who are worried about trillion-dollar deficits stretching as far as the eye can see.
And there are an awful lot of nervous Americans. As Sen. Bayh points out, they're more than half of our electorate.
On Facebook? You can keep up with Thomas Jefferson Street blog postings through Facebook's Networked Blogs.