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.
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?” But Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said, “The second five years is where we’re on a completely unsustainable course.”“People know we have an overall situation here that doesn’t add up,” he said.
Results from a Gallup survey released last week show that although more than six in 10 Americans approve of Obama’s overall job performance, fewer than half say they approve of how he is handling the deficit and controlling federal spending. The poll also shows a decline from the previous month in the percentage of Americans who approve of Obama’s handling of the economy, although a majority still does.