Obama is losing the fiscal battleby Michael Goldfarb / April 20, 2011 / Leave a comment
Published in May 2011 issue of Prospect Magazine
It never ends: America’s ideological combat over its debts. The battlefield is the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol building to the White House, along which limos race back and forth in these increasingly ritualised fights.
In April it was a battle royal over the delayed federal budget. This almost led to the government shutting down before President Obama and Republican John Boehner, the House Speaker, agreed to $38.5bn in spending cuts. In May, the fight will be over raising the national debt ceiling, which is currently $14.3 trillion. Sometime in the autumn, when the budget for 2012 is debated, it has generally been agreed that long-term deficit reduction must be addressed. No one expects that debate to be anything other than rhetorically violent.
Two years into his presidency, it is clear that Obama is not the man to impose his will in these battles. A conciliator by nature, he is following a playbook for governance that is several decades out of date: one predicated on the idea that the US government functions as a series of compromises between its executive and legislative branches, and between two political parties.