PJ Media

'Yes We Can' Turns into 'I Don't Think So'

I found in my inbox a “Dear Jennifer” missive from Obama’s Organizing for America outfit (the successor to the campaign):

Jennifer —

Partisan voices and special interests are showing real resistance to President Obama’s call for making the necessary reforms and investments in energy, health care, and education.

That’s why we need to bring the conversation back into homes and communities across America.

Last week, thousands of you pledged your support for the President’s economic plan and encouraged your friends and family to join you in a national display of support. Now I need you to take the next step.

This weekend, supporters like you are organizing Pledge Project Canvasses to talk to people in their communities about this plan and mobilize support in neighborhoods across the country.

Host or attend a Pledge Project Canvass in your neighborhood this weekend.

It’s absolutely crucial that Americans hear from you about this plan — we can’t leave this important debate up to a Washington establishment that doesn’t welcome change.

It’s up to you to show Washington that Americans are demanding this new direction and won’t stand on the sidelines while our country’s future is at stake.

On these canvasses, you’ll join fellow supporters in your community to:

Talk with people about the President’s plan
Ask them to sign their names to the pledge
Provide information on how to contact and urge their elected representatives to support the plan
Host or attend a canvass this weekend.

No, I didn’t pledge last week to do anything for the never-stop Obama campaign, nor do I think very many people will be annoying their friends and neighbors with such conversation starters as: “Hey, don’t you think we should limit the tax deductibility of charitable donations?” I can’t quite imagine the reaction if my next-door neighbor greeted me with: “Really, even if cap-and-trade amounts to a $1,300 per-head tax in a recession, don’t you think it is worth it?”

I’d be curious to hear the results of these and other scintillating discussions around the heartland. But getting people to vote for candidate Obama may be considerably easier than getting people to agree with President Obama’s policies.

And that’s the rub: getting even Democrats to agree with the president’s massive tax and spend plans is becoming an uphill fight. Democrats like Kent Conrad, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, are becoming more and more vocal about their objections to a budget which includes cap-and-trade “revenue,” limits on charitable and home mortgage deductions, and a $634 billion “down payment” on nationalized health care.

In a conference call with Pajamas Media and a small number of bloggers, Republican Senators John Thune and John Ensign set out the case against the budget — the very spending plan Obama wants his faithful followers to explain to their neighbors. Thune explained that the budget, if passed, would result in $3.9 trillion in federal spending next year, a whopping 28% of GDP. That’s a mark which we have not hit since World War II. “Our debt will double in five years,” he said. “It will triple in ten.” Ensign then went after the president’s cap-and-trade plan, which amounts to an energy tax on all Americans and a violation of Obama’s campaign promise not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 a year. “Well, it doesn’t raise taxes if you don’t use energy or buy any products,” he deadpanned.

I asked the senators whether the same reticence about taxing, spending, and borrowing was now a bipartisan concern. Thune joked, “Luckily [for the president] it only takes 51 to pass a budget.” He then observed that in fact Conrad was not alone among Democrats in raising concerns about the magnitude of the budget. He explained that so-called Red state and moderate Democrats are “increasingly uncomfortable” with the budget, especially after having gone out on a limb with the enormous stimulus plan. And a key number of his colleagues, including Senate historian extraordinaire Robert Byrd, have objected to the attempt to slide cap-and-trade and other major policy provisions into the the post-budget “reconciliation” process (and thereby evade the threat of a filibuster).

So there is no doubt that the president is going to need all those campaign admirers. His budget — which hardly evinces any effort of the president going “line by line” through the budget, proposes an energy tax on all Americans, and takes us to unprecedented spending levels — is not an easy sell. Will devoted campaign followers really cajole their neighbors to create a tidal wave of support in favor of the largest tax increase in history? Will neighbors be excited to hear that a whopping energy tax is coming down the pike?

Time will tell if the Obama administration can corral the needed votes in Congress. But the fact that they are resorting to a campaign-type stunt to drum up public support suggests that their own members have many of the same qualms which Republicans do. And, at the very least, the budget will force each and every member of the House and Senate who will be up for re-election in 2010 and/or 2012 to decide if they share the president’s budgetary vision.

It likely will take more than some leftover campaign stunts to convince even Democrats that this is a budget which meets candidate Obama’s promise of fiscal responsibility.  Some starry-eyed voters might have chanted “Yes, we can!” when asked to select Obama over his hapless Republican opponent. But as they learn more about the budget, more Americans may be saying, “I don’t think so.”