Obama's spending plans may pose political risks
Will adding $9 trillion to the deficit become a political liability for Democrats in 2010 midterm elections?
After enjoying months of towering poll numbers, legislative victories, and well-received foreign policy initiatives, the White House has become increasingly concerned that President Barack Obama's spending plans, which will require $9 trillion in government borrowing over the next decade, could become a political liability that defines the 2010 midterm elections.Skip to next paragraph
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The growing internal concern was reflected in the aggressive response from administration officials to criticism that money from Obama's stimulus plan is arriving too slowly to help the languishing economy, as well as in the president's public endorsement of "pay as you go" legislation requiring Congress to make room for new non-discretionary spending with equivalent cuts to other parts of the budget. On Saturday, Obama also outlined billions of dollars in savings that would be used to pay for his health-care reform proposal.
But there is evidence of growing public concern over his fiscal policies. As he traveled Thursday in Green Bay, Wis., Obama was greeted by demonstrators holding signs that said, "No socialism" and "Taxed Enough Yet?"
Republican leaders, who have been searching for a way to dent the president's popularity, are training their attacks on his economic policies as they look ahead to the 2010 midterm congressional elections. Their argument that Obama is spending recklessly, however, is complicated by the fact that the previous GOP administration's tax cuts, borrowing to finance wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and expansion of entitlement benefits remain the chief drivers behind the rising debt.
"The reckless fiscal policies of the past have left us in a very deep hole," Obama said last week. "And digging our way out of it will take time, patience, and some tough choices."
But even some leaders in his own party are calling on the president to soon begin making those difficult choices, despite a fragile economy that remains in recession.
After inheriting a $1.3 trillion annual budget deficit upon taking office, Obama pushed through $787 billion in short-term spending and tax cuts designed to make up for retreating private-sector demand and to spark the economy. He also won approval for a 10-year budget that aspires to sharply reduce the deficit in its first years and takes on the rising cost of health care, which his advisers say is the single biggest cause of increasing public expenditures.