Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Previewing Obama's State of the Union

On Wednesday, President Obama will deliver his first State of the Union address to Congress.

Most commentators, despite their political affiliations and pedigrees will agree that President Obama has had a rough first year.

There have been other American presidents who have had hard first years too and were able to turn their presidencies around- Ronald Reagan, Teddy Roosevelt are a couple that come to mind.

Mr. Obama has been handicapped by governing inexperience and a leftist ideology which has hamstrung his ability to deliver his election promises so far. That bill with the American voters is coming due quickly (see Massachusetts).

Here is a link to what many liberal Americans are saying right now about the direction the President needs to go. The full text is here:

A lot of commentators on the left think the three-year spending freeze President Barack Obama will announce in his State of the Union speech is a mistake of historic proportions.

The plan is intended to save $250 billion over 10 years and would affect 17 percent of the federal budget, according to administration officials. Military and homeland security spending, international aid and entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare would not be affected.

Obama's decision shows "he'll govern like a hybrid of John McCain and Herbert Hoover for the rest of his term to curry favor with the deficit maniacs," said Firedoglake's David Dayen.

The Moderate Voice's Kathy Kattenburg is another blogger who invoked the 31st president, who failed to pull the nation out of the Great Depression. In a post titled Herbert Hoover Returns to the White House, she raised these questions: "Why is he planning to announce a Republican-style spending freeze in a deep recession? Does he truly imagine Republicans in Congress will support his initiatives now? Why isn't he solving problems and helping people instead of running scared from his own oft-stated beliefs?"

Others are comparing the move to President Franklin Roosevelt cutting back on government spending in 1937. "The results were catastrophic. The economy tanked. And so did the fortunes of the Democratic Party. Predictably, Republicans won 79 seats in the 1938 midterms," Jed Lewison warned on Daily Kos.

"Instead of delivering his State of the Union address this week, Barack Obama may as well hold up a big sign that says, 'I want Democrats to lose Congress,'" a post by desmoinesdem on the MyDD blog complained.

"Perhaps the worst thing about this is how it cedes the ideological ground to the Republicans," added Jonathan Zasloff on The Reality-Based Community.

Some liberal critics of a freeze on domestic discretionary spending are using Obama's own words against him. They point out that in presidential debates with McCain, who called for an across-the-board spending freeze, Obama likened the idea to "using a hatchet when you need a scalpel."

Obama's freeze wouldn't be as wide-ranging as the one McCain pushed. It's more like an overall spending cap, so funding for certain programs considered wasteful -- farm subsidies are often mentioned -- could be slashed while spending for health care and education gets increased. But Congress would have to agree on where to cut and, as The Washington Post's Ezra Klein pointed out, even wasteful programs have powerful supporters on Capitol Hill.

"It's a lot easier for Congress to change the mix than reject the overall freeze. But a freeze is very hard to do right, particularly in tough economic times. Doing it wrong would be a catastrophe," Klein cautioned.

If there's too much wiggle room in Obama's freeze, Daily Kos' Lewison wrote in an update after learning details of the proposal, it could end up "looking like a major political gimmick."

The president will speak to the nation Wednesday night -- just a week after Republican Scott Brown's upset victory in the Massachusetts Senate race doomed Obama's Democratic super majority in the Senate. Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum wonders whether Obama is pivoting from health care reform to fiscal restraint too fast -- making the spending freeze proposal look like "a panicky and transparent attempt to recover from the Massachusetts tsunami."

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