Hope For Hope
My pals Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie from reason write in the WaPo that Obama is going all Carter Country on us in his popularity, with every major initiative of his "meeting not just with failure but with scorn from political allies and foes alike":
The key to understanding Obama's predicament is to realize that while he ran convincingly as a repudiation of Bush, he is in fact doubling down on his predecessor's big-government policies and perpetual crisis-mongering. From the indefinite detention of alleged terrorists to gays in the military to bailing out industries large and small, Obama has been little more than the keeper of the Bush flame. Indeed, it took the two of them to create the disaster that is the 2009 budget, racking up a deficit that has already crossed the historic $1 trillion mark with almost three months left in the fiscal year.
Beyond pushing the "emergency" $787 billion stimulus package (even while acknowledging that the vast majority of funds would be released in 2010 and beyond), Obama signed a $410 billion omnibus spending bill and a $106 billion supplemental spending bill to cover "emergency" expenses in Iraq and Afghanistan (and, improbably, a "cash for clunkers" program). Despite pledges to achieve a "net spending cut" by targeting earmarks and wasteful spending, Obama rubber-stamped more than 9,000 earmarks and asked government agencies to trim a paltry $100 million in spending this year, 0.003 percent of the federal budget.
In the same way that Bush claimed to be cutting government even while increasing real spending by more than 70 percent, Obama seems to believe that saying one thing, while doing another, somehow makes it so. His first budget was titled "A New Era of Fiscal Responsibility," even as his own projections showed a decade's worth of historically high deficits. He vowed no new taxes on 95 percent of Americans, then jacked up cigarette taxes and indicated a willingness to consider new health-care taxes as part of his reform package. He said he didn't want to take over General Motors on the day that he took over General Motors.
Such is the extent of Obama's magical realism that he can promise to post all bills on the Internet five days before signing them, serially break that promise and then, when announcing that he wouldn't even try anymore, have a spokesman present the move as yet another example of "providing the American people more transparency in government."
...What are his options? First, stop doing harm. Throwing money all over the economy (and especially to sectors that match up with Democratic interests) is the shortest path to what Margaret Thatcher described as the inherent flaw in socialism: Eventually you run out of other people's money.
No matter how many fantastical multipliers Obama ascribes to government spending, with each day comes refutation of the administration's promises on jobs and economic growth. Even his chief source on the topic, economic adviser Christina Romer, now grants that calculating jobs "created or saved" by Team Obama is simply impossible.
Which leads to the second point: Stop it with the magical realism already.
Save terms such as "fiscal responsibility" for policies that at least minimally resemble that notion. Don't pretend that a budget that doubles the national debt in five years and triples it in 10 is the work of politicians tackling "the difficult choices." Americans have a pretty good (if slow-to-activate) B.S. detector, and the more you mislead them now, the worse they'll punish you later. Toward that end, producing real transparency instead of broken promises is the first step toward building credibility.
That the administration is now spending millions of dollars to revamp its useless stimulus-tracking site Recovery.gov is one more indication that, post-Bush, the White House still thinks of citizens as marks to be rolled.