Obama's promises face a rough road ahead
A government mired in debt combined with a recession will make the path to recovery difficult for the president-elect.
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Budget experts say, "Amen."
A deeply troubled economy, they hold, won't allow Mr. Obama to raise taxes in 2009 to start paying for his ambitious plans to improve healthcare, education, infrastructure, and other areas.
"No one will raise taxes in times of an economic downturn," notes Stan Collender, a veteran fiscal analyst with Qorvis Communications in Washington. He doubts that a tax hike will even be talked about much in 2009.
The Concord Coalition, a Washington group pushing for responsible budgets, cautions: "Campaign promises will bump up against reality."
Without 60 votes in the Senate to override a filibuster, Obama may not even get Congress to quickly pass his campaign proposal to raise taxes on the rich. His goal of spreading wealth around a bit may have to await until the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of 2010.
Congress will almost certainly approve, either this year or early next year, an expensive stimulus package. With the economy in recession, budget experts figure Congress will ignore the prospect of a $1 trillion federal deficit in the current fiscal year ending next Sept. 30, even though the national debt clock is already ticking away at the $10.6 trillion level.
During the Great Depression, after the 1932 election, Franklin D. Roosevelt refused President Herbert Hoover's offer to be involved in economic policymaking before Inauguration Day, apparently for political reasons. In those days, inauguration wasn't until March 4.
But Mr. Collender expects Obama to be involved in budget affairs, maybe even other economic matters, before being sworn into office Jan. 20. Obama won't want to "appear weak, indecisive, and unwilling to govern," he notes. Second, the turmoil in global financial markets "will virtually demand" the president-elect to be very visible. And, third, Collender argues, the Democratic majorities in Congress will want to know Obama's views on an economic rescue package. After all, many Democrats owe their re-election or election to Obama's popularity.