You’ve seen a lot of President Obama these past few weeks, more than you saw of him during the debates over his health care reform law or the economic stimulus measures. You’ve seen a statesman, compromising president, an angry & frustrated president, a hopeful president, but the message from the White House has been consistent: raise the debt ceiling and reach for a “grand bargain” that, through spending cuts and tax increases, trim the budget deficit by $4 trillion or more. After House Speaker John Boehner pulled out of direct negotiations with President Obama on Friday hope for any kind of far-reaching deal is waning and the new emphasis is on avoiding default on America’s loans next Tuesday, by any means necessary—but what happened to the ambitious grand bargain? After the partisan rancor of the debt ceiling fight, what the president characterized yesterday as a “partisan three-ring circus,” dies down, can the effort to reach a compromise to reduce the deficit be revisited? Can the president ever restore the faith of his liberal base, who feels that he has been far too quick to agree to cuts in Social Security, Medicare and other social safety net programs?
According to a poll published by the Washington Post this morning more than a third of Americans believe that President Obama’s policies are hurting the economy; confidence in the ability of Congress and the president to reach a deal on the debt ceiling by next week is low on Wall Street and in foreign markets; all of the hopes of finding an opportunity in the debt crisis to make major changes seem to have drained from Washington and the country. Can President Obama, the man who ran on “hope” in 2008, restore any before next Tuesday?
Jason Furman, principal deputy director of the National Economic Council in the Executive Office of the President