Obama's Missed Opportunity with the Stimulus

The president seems likely to win the battle but lose the argument -- and the war. The battle is the stimulus bill which passed the Senate on Tuesday and will clear the conference committee this week. But the argument concerns the best way to revive the economy. The war is the effort to redraw the political map, creating a permanent Democratic majority.

Fresh evidence suggests it is the Republicans who are making headway on the argument as to whether a pork-laden stimulus bill is the best means of beating back the recession. The Pew poll reports:

Support for President Barack Obama's proposed $800 billion stimulus package fell in the past month as Americans took a more polarized stance toward the plan, according to a new Pew Research Center poll. Fifty-one percent of 1,303 adults polled from Feb. 4-8 said they thought the stimulus was a good idea, compared with 57 percent in early January. ... While Republican opponents of the measure may not have a majority of Americans on their side, the poll showed that the GOP is winning one of its central arguments against the White House: the idea that tax cuts provide better stimulus than spending. Forty-eight percent of all respondents said tax cuts for individuals and businesses would be more effective than federal spending on programs and infrastructure compared to 39 percent who said spending would be more effective.

Zogby's results were even more definitive:

Amidst all the rhetoric surrounding President Barack Obama's first signature piece of legislation, a massive $800 billion economic "stimulus" bill, one thing is clear: a majority of Americans reject the President's handiwork. A just-released ATI-News/Zogby International poll shows that clear majorities of Republicans and Independents are against it. ... Overall, 53 percent of Americans agree that the Obama stimulus bill will actually hinder economic recovery; while only 31 percent disagree (16 percent are not sure). Fifty-six percent of Independent voters also agree, while only 27 percent disagree (17 percent are not sure). A staggering 88 percent of Republicans agree and just 6 percent disagree (another 6 percent are not sure). ... Fifty-seven percent of Independent voters agree that Obama's stimulus package spends too much and does little to stimulate the economy; while just 31 percent of Independents disagree (12 percent are not sure). Eighty-nine percent of Republicans also agree, while only 5 percent disagree (6 percent are not sure).

The most definitive evidence that Americans are resistant to the president's effort to pump up spending and expand the size of government comes from Obama's own campaign book. He certainly didn't run on the promise to embark on a massive spending spree. To the contrary, he pledged to go line by line through the federal budget. (We're pretty certain he meant to subtract, not add, as he went along.) If anything, the "mandate" was to restrict the size of government.