President Obama recently signed his first major legislative accomplishment, a $787 billion dollar economic stimulus bill. However, the president's win is beginning to look more and more like a Pyrrhic victory. In fact, after just 30 days on the job, the new president has alienated independents, small business leaders, young voters, Catholics and Republicans on a number of legislative victories.
According to a recent ATI-News/Zogby poll, 66 percent of independents think Obama's stimulus bill spends too much money on items that will not improve the economy. Fifty-three percent of young voters (ages 18 to 29), 60 percent of small business leaders and 93 percent of Republicans all oppose the bill for the same reason.
Advertisement - story continues below
While President Obama gets an "A" from voters on style, only Democrats give him a passing grade on substance, and barely at that, as only 55 percent of Democratic voters think his stimulus bill spends money in the right places.
During the inauguration and even today, President Obama is seen as a young, handsome family man with movie screen elegance. But now that it's time for substance, things aren't going so smoothly.
President for a month, Obama is already working on his fourth choice for commerce secretary.
In addition, he reversed a federal law that prohibited foreign governments from using U.S. taxpayer dollars for abortions – while President Obama won the support of 54 percent of Catholics in the election, according to ATI-News/Zogby, 55 percent of Catholics are opposed to this action.
And, although closing the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay earned him high praise, reality dictates that it was largely a symbolic move, as the center remains open and will remain open until President Obama decides what to do with the roughly 245 suspected terrorists who occupy it.
Advertisement - story continues below
Here is a brief synopses of President Obama's first 30 days:
President Obama has now officially taken ownership of the recession. Obama fought incredibly hard for what a majority of Americans think is a pork-barrel stimulus bill that isn't likely to turn around the economy. According to a recent ATI-News/Zogby poll, 58 percent of Americans think too much money in the bill goes toward non-stimulus expenditures, while only 30 percent think otherwise (12 percent are not sure).
As passage of the bill became more difficult, President Obama's rhetoric became more dire and urgent. According to the Wall Street Journal, Obama "turned fearmongering into an art form" and "repeatedly raised the specter of another Great Depression." By resorting to such rhetoric, President Obama officially took ownership of the recession – for better or for worse.
President Obama has increased the partisan divide in Washington. According to Rep. Dan Boren, D-Okla., "The problem is that [the stimulus bill] became a Democrat bill and not an American bill, because [Obama] didn't use any of the Republican ideas." Of course, during the campaign, President Obama promised to change the sharply partisan nature of Washington and govern in a bipartisan fashion. During the campaign, President Obama promised to "change the way Washington works" and "reach across the aisle" to "bridge partisan divides." However, his final stimulus bill was rejected by seven Democrats and supported by only three Republicans. This is not exactly what he promised during the campaign.
President Obama is losing one of his core constituencies: young people. According to an ATI-News/Zogby poll, voters ages 18 to 29, a majority of whom helped elect President Obama, are beginning to show signs of jumping ship. The poll found that 53 percent of such voters think President Obama's stimulus bill will make economic recovery harder to achieve, while only 31 percent believe in his plan. The same was almost identically true for voters ages 30 to 49 (53 to 30 percent).
President Obama is losing the Americans who should have the biggest hand in the recovery: small business leaders. According to the same ATI-News/Zogby poll, 56 percent of mainly small business leaders think President Obama's stimulus plan will make economic recovery harder, not easier. Only 32 percent thought it would be helpful to the economy. A staggering 60 percent of business leaders think Obama's bill spends too much on non-stimulus pork items, as opposed to real measures that will improve the economy. This is crucial, as these business leaders are the ones who will ultimately create the jobs, wealth and commerce that will turn around the economy. It is troubling that a clear majority of them see President Obama's plan as a hindrance, not a help.
President Obama is talking down the economy at the worst possible time. By repeatedly telling Americans that we're on the cusp of another Great Depression, President Obama showed he was willing to employ fearmongering to gain a political victory. His comparison of today's environment to the Great Depression is not only historically inaccurate, but it also threatens to have the very real effect of dampening Americans' hope for the future. President Obama's Treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, also looked unprepared and offered little more than partisan rhetoric in his recent pitch for Obama's plan to save the banks. (The immediate fallout from Secretary Geithner's rhetoric was a 400-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.)
Moreover, 53 percent of Americans think Obama's stimulus bill will actually make economic recovery harder to achieve, according to a recent ATI-News/Zogby poll. Only 31 percent think it will spur recovery. In addition, 56 percent of independents think the bill will hinder recovery, as do 53 percent of young voters ages 18 to 29, and 56 percent of small business leaders.
President Obama is now working on his fourth Commerce secretary in only one month. According to Republican aides close to the situation, Obama's pick for Commerce secretary, Republican Sen. Judd Gregg, withdrew his nomination in large part because he was angered that Republicans were shut out of the process. Gregg withdrew his nomination shortly after the ATI-News/Zogby poll was released, which showed the small business community's negative perception of Obama's stimulus effort. Gregg was Obama's third pick to run the Commerce Department after New Mexico's Gov. Bill Richardson was forced to withdraw his nomination, and Penny Pritzker publicly stated she did not want the post. President Obama will now have to find yet another to fill the role of Commerce secretary.
President Obama's high standard for cabinet appointees never materialized. During the campaign, Obama stumped frequently about the high purity standards that his cabinet and advisers would have to meet. However, this standard never materialized, as Obama has nominated numerous people with tax problems and lobbyists to fill out his top-level staff. Indeed, there have been few exceptions to this "purity standard" that the Obama administration has not been willing to make.
President Obama has effectively undone many of the strides America has made on welfare reform. Many of the provisions in the stimulus bill are actually designed to reverse gains made on welfare reform. As Michael Tanner writes in the New York Post: "[T]he bill would reward states for increasing caseloads, even if the growth came because the state had loosened its requirements for recipients to work. This is radical change. States that succeed in getting people off welfare would lose the opportunity for increased federal funding. And states that make it easier to stay on welfare (by, say, raising the time limit from two years to five) would get rewarded with more taxpayer cash. The bill would even let states with rising welfare rolls still collect their 'case-load reduction' bonuses."
Victory frequently comes at a cost, but rarely is the price tag this steep. Small business leaders, young voters, independents and Republicans are now asking: Will President Obama's stimulus bill create jobs, spur investment, free up credit and save the housing industry? This is how his economic recovery plan will be judged, and only then will he know if it was worth the tremendous personal, political and capital expense.
Advertisement - story continues below