Is the One slid­ing to zero?

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Don­ald Lam­bro

Five months into his pres­i­dency, the big­gest items on Barack Obama’s agenda are in deep trou­ble, and sup­port for his han­dling of the econ­omy and a bal­loon­ing bud­get deficit is plum­met­ing.

The na­tional news me­dia were still try­ing to deal with the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s agenda as gen­tly as pos­si­ble, as if ev­ery­thing was on a steady course.

But his top pro­pos­als are dan­ger­ously off course and headed for de­feat. Health care re­form is mired in Demo­cratic dis­sen­sion, es­pe­cially on the sky-high taxes needed to pay for it. His rev­enue-rais­ing, in­fla­tion­ary cli­mate change, “cap and trade” en­ergy bill is all but dead. His eco­nomic stim­u­lus plan has failed to cre­ate any­where near the jobs he said it would, amid grow­ing pub­lic doubts that the nearly $800 bil­lion spending scheme will work at all.

There is even deeper pub­lic con­cern over a nearly $2 tril­lion bud­get deficit, ac­cord­ing to re­cent news­pa­per polls that show a large ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans want to slow down gov­ern­ment spending — even if it means a slower eco­nomic re­cov­ery.

De­spite the sever­ity of the re­ces­sion, a Wall Street Jour­nal/NBC News poll pub­lished June 18 showed 58 per­cent said Congress and the pres­i­dent should fo­cus more on re­duc­ing the deficit, even if that re­sulted in a longer eco­nomic down­turn. Just 35 per­cent said stim­u­lat­ing the econ­omy was more im­por­tant even if it meant higher deficits.

More omi­nously, the polls showed con­tin­u­ing slip­page in Mr. Obama’s job ap­proval scores. The New York Times/CBS News poll found 63 per­cent ap­proved of the over­all job he is do­ing, down from 68 per­cent in April. The Wall Street Jour­nal poll showed his ap­proval drop­ping to 56 per­cent from 61 per­cent in April.

Re­flect­ing wide­spread anx­i­ety over wors­en­ing un­em­ploy­ment and an econ­omy still in the dol­drums, the Jour­nal poll showed only a bare ma­jor­ity (51 per­cent) ap­proved of his han­dling of the econ­omy, down from 55 per­cent in April.

The huge bud­get deficits un­der Mr. Obama’s big spending plans were a source of worry, too. “Six in 10 peo­ple sur­veyed said the ad­min­is­tra­tion has yet to de­velop a clear plan for deal­ing with the deficit, in­clud­ing 65 per­cent of in­de­pen­dents,” the New York Times re­ported.

Th­ese num­bers, the Jour­nal said June 19, “raised red flags at the White House that the pres­i­dent [. . .] is los­ing some ground with the pub­lic on his eco­nomic poli­cies,” as the job­less rate rose to 9.4 per­cent in May and the ad­min­is­tra­tion said it would likely ex­ceed 10 per­cent in the com­ing months.

The polls also show there is a wide gulf be­tween the pres­i­dent’s per­sonal ap­proval scores and how Amer­i­cans view his ma­jor poli­cies.

The New York Times poll two weeks ago found that “A [63 per­cent] ma­jor­ity of peo­ple said his poli­cies have had ei­ther no ef­fect yet on im­prov­ing the econ­omy or had made it worse.”

Doubts about the spending stim­u­lus con­tinue grow as news­pa­pers across the coun­try ran neg­a­tive sto­ries last week about its im­pact, or lack of it, in their states. Sig­nif­i­cantly, the Jour­nal poll found that just 37 per­cent now think that Obama’s eco­nomic stim­u­lus pro­gram is a “good idea,” com­pared to 39 per­cent who said it is a “bad idea,” while 24 per­cent have no opin­ion at all or were not sure.

Mean­time, a re­veal­ing Wash­ing­ton Post poll last week said “Barely half of Amer­i­cans are now con­fi­dent” Mr. Obama’s stim­u­lus spending will boost the econ­omy. Many of th­ese doubts are fed by ex­ag­ger­ated claims about the num­ber of jobs that have been “saved or cre­ated” that have proven il­lu­sion­ary.

“In fact, the orig­i­nal pro­jec­tions of Mr. Obama’s eco­nomic aides have turned out to be off by a very wide mar­gin,” says vet­eran fact checker Brooks Jack­son at fac­tcheck.org.

Sup­port for Mr. Obama’s na­tion­al­ized health care plan doesn’t fare much bet­ter. Just 33 per­cent say his plan is a good idea ver­sus 32 per­cent who say bad idea, with 30 per­cent hav­ing no opin­ion.

It has be­come the vic­tim of sticker shock, with cost es­ti­mates run­ning be­tween $1 tril­lion and $2 tril­lion for open­ers. There are ir­rec­on­cil­able dif­fer­ences about plans to carve $300 bil­lion out of Medi­care ben­e­fits; to tax, for the first time, em­ployer-pro­vided health care ben­e­fits (op­posed by union and nonunion work­ers alike); or to levy a na­tional sales tax.

Un­prece­dented spending lev­els and sky­rock­et­ing debt are at the heart of Mr. Obama’s agenda, and this is where pub­lic sup­port falls most sharply. The Post poll found nearly 9 in 10 Amer­i­cans say they are “very” [56 per­cent] or “some­what” [31 per­cent] con­cerned about the wors­en­ing deficits.

Most omi­nous po­lit­i­cally for Mr. Obama and the Democrats: 61 per­cent of in­de­pen­dent swing vot­ers say they fa­vor “smaller gov­ern­ment with fewer ser­vices” over “larger gov­ern­ment with more ser­vices.” Over­all, smaller gov­ern­ment wins 54 per­cent to 41 per­cent, The Post found.

So much for those on the far left who say a ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans now fa­vor big­ger gov­ern­ment in the Age of Obama. Clearly, they don’t.

Don­ald Lam­bro is chief po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent for The Wash­ing­ton Times.

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