Nowhere To Go

The “fundamental transformation of America” has hit massive roadblocks: the 2010 elections, The Tea Party, public opinion and in all likelihood the Supreme Court.

The President has options: all philosophically unacceptable or a strategic Catch 22. It is not difficult to envisage a President who in his heart believes the stimulus was too small and that we need another; knowing it to be impossible under the current conditions. The economics have not worked and the political nature of the stimulus inescapable. The Infrastructure Bank is stimulus by another name and carries the essential message that the original Stimulus was, in fact, more political than economic. It’s a request for an economic “do over”; unlikely to be granted!

It would, taking one example, cost nothing to declare a tax holiday for repatriated profits bringing, potentially, another $2 trillion or more back to the U.S. economy. However, Democratic resistance can be anticipated and it could be ugly in the House. Largesse for demonized corporations will be seen as hypocritical by the President’s base. Turning to demon corporations for help is a tough hurdle for the President and that’s the easy, no cost option. Each succeeding possibility for the President becomes progressively more difficult to swallow let alone sell with conviction. The Fed has fired their best shots: remaining options are severely limited. Additional stimulus spending won’t fly; cuts are not cuts, debt soars and confidence is evaporating and moves to fix one problem could easily lead to the advent of another; inflation for instance.

Can the President alter his economic direction? He may not want to or feel he can for a number of reasons. If he says to Republicans “Okay you guys can have your way” hoping to hang them with it the risk is that it will show early signs of working, in that case the President has a political problem equal to admitting he was wrong all along. There is also jeopardy in continuing to reject solutions growing numbers of Americans see as common sense. No doubt he has come to realize that part of the economic equation is psychological and emotional; those aspects don’t work for him at the moment. Holding course is highly unlikely to generate significant economic improvement anytime soon as evidenced by the Fed’s two year interest outlook. There is a lot of voting with dollars going on; individuals and corporations are voting “no confidence”. The President has a Hobson’s choice of his own doing, could that be the reason why there are no signals of a change in policy at the White House?

The context of the politics is the numbers; Rasmussen and Gallup provide no good news for the President. 16% say we’re on the right track; that number does not even cover approval from the structural left. The strongly approve number, in a month, has gone from 26% to 20%. The strongly approve number, generally, is minus 22 points, strongly disapprove at 42%. 56% of Independents say they want someone else in the Oval Office. Total approve / disapprove is minus 10%. Gallup has the President’s approval at 39%. This is no mandate for continuance of current policy.

There are, to appearances, still Regan Democrats out there. Rasmussen reports 33% of Conservative Democrats are not supporting the President. There is, as well, The Tea Party. Recent polling has 42% of likely voters believing that average Tea Party member have a better grasp of the problems facing the country than Congress does, 34% giving Congress the edge. In the interest of integrity that 42% number was 52% last March, but the 10% difference did not move in favor of Congress.

Blaming Congress is supportable strategy by the numbers. Is it, however, logically supportable to blame the guys most of the country thinks are idiots to begin with? Does blaming the idiots put a fine point on leadership criticisms? If your ideas are unable to pass Congress do you put yourself in a position of being seen as having been out maneuvered by idiots?

The President is over 50% favorability in 16 states plus D.C. Economic confidence numbers plummeted 10 points in two weeks. 80% say the economic outlook is worse, 16% better. People have and are learning cuts aren’t really cuts. D.C. knew this all along, voters are now hip to it and it is now a defining issue. Like it or not, the Tea Party terrorists paved the way.

And yet, the President maintains continued advocacy for policy perceived to have failed, blame and demonization are no longer working. No admission of responsibility, no thoughtful reconsideration, no process for changing the “change”. The self anointed moral superiority the President relies on is losing traction at a staggering pace. He has nowhere to go.