A new Time poll reveals just how hard the task is: Two-thirds of respondents say they oppose a second government stimulus package. And 53% say the country would have been better off without the first one.
The result is a White House pulled in three directions at once as it tries to repair the economy ”” and ensure that Obama and the Democrats can survive a rising tide of public anger. First, the Obama team is improvising ways to pass piecemeal spending items through a Congress where stimulus has become a toxic word. At the same time, the White House is signaling its concern about that budget deficit that has Tea Partyers raging ”” both through token gestures, like a White House contest that lets the public vote on cost-cutting ideas submitted by federal employees (the winner gets to meet Obama and see his or her idea go in the President’s next budget), and through Obama’s support for the work of a bipartisan deficit commission. And finally, the White House is trying to explain to angry liberals that it’s doing everything possible to keep the economy moving and fight Republican resistance to new spending.
It’s a delicate balancing act, on a par with Obama’s effort to pass health care reform without appearing to get too involved in the details. And just as it did in the health care battle, the future of Obama’s presidency ”” as well as the fate of the American economy ”” may hang on the outcome.