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Posted at 10:37 AM ET, 02/15/2011

Ratings on Obama's handling of the deficit

By Jon Cohen and Peyton M. Craighill

Most Americans disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling the federal budget deficit, but head-to-head against the Republicans in Congress, the president appears to be in better political shape than former president Bill Clinton was at the start of his year-long budget fight with the Republicans in 1995.

In a new Gallup poll - taken before the president released his budget this week - fully 68 percent of Americans said they disapprove of the way the president is handling the federal budget deficit, by far his worst rating of the eight specific issues in the survey. Pitted against the GOP, however, there's a roughly even split: in a January Washington Post-ABC News poll, 44 percent of Americans said they put more faith in Obama to handle the deficit; about as many said they trust the GOP on the issue. (CBS-NYT and CNN polls in January showed similar divide.)

By contrast, in January 1995, congressional Republicans had a sizable 23-point advantage - 55 to 32 percent - when it came to deficit reduction.

Clinton's overall approval ratings in early 1995 Post-ABC and Gallup polls exactly match Obama's numbers in these polls now (54 and 49 percent, respectively).

But on today's top issue - the looming budget battle - Obama's approval ratings still lag broader public assessments. In Post-ABC polling, majorities have disapproved of the president's handling the budget for almost a year and a half.

Not surprisingly, partisan differences are vast: in the January Post-ABC poll, 76 percent of Democrats approved of how Obama was then handling the issue, compared with just 15 percent among Republicans. In that poll, he got 34 percent approval among independents. In the early February Gallup poll, a mere 7 percent of Republicans backed Obama on the deficit.

One thorny problem for both sides in the looming budget debate is deciding where specifically to make cuts. See last week's posts for more details.

By Jon Cohen and Peyton M. Craighill  | February 15, 2011; 10:37 AM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama, Federal Budget Deficit  
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Comments

If Republicans don't want to raise taxes and can only insignificantly reduce the deficit how are we to meet our obligations. There is already speculation that Uncle Sam will be downgraded as a debtor. What we're hoping for is an economic revival which will reemploy millions and millions of people. But in the meantime we are in a void where commodity prices like oil and food are rising faster than inflation and interest rates can't be abated forever.

Posted by: KraftPaper | February 15, 2011 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Republican's have to stop the talk and walk
the walk.
Mr.Boehner "Were's the beef?"
The dog eat my homework will only work
just so many times.

Posted by: billysnap | February 15, 2011 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Obama has done it to himself by creating too many new obligations:

1) Against the will of the majority of Americans, he rammed through an $800 billion stimulus that has turned out to be mostly a waste

2) Against the will of the majority of Americans, he rammed through a $1 trillion health care "overhaul" and we really don't know where the spend bottom is on this.
He's the one who's created a messy set of obligations.

I have no sympathy for Obama; the sooner we run him out of office the better.

Posted by: ReasonPrevails | February 15, 2011 11:38 AM | Report abuse

This is pretty bad news for Obama, even though the article doesn't spin it that way. The economy is in far worse shape than it was when Clinton was in office. And Obama won largely on his promise that he would not continue the Republican status quo from Bush - that he was a man of "change". Yet he is evenly split on his economic performance with the party that he claims ruined everything. That's a pretty awful rating.

Everybody knows what's going on here. Social services and entitlements had grown out of control for decades, without providing the services they had promised (health care and social security being the main ones). Meanwhile, the US economy was raped by the large industries who control the Government.

Energy, pharmaceuticals, automobiles, banking, real estate, and investment companies - they all wielded enough muscle over the laws and tax structure to rob the economy blind.

So here we are. That money is gone, and it's not coming back. Yet neither Bush nor Obama ever really proposed any plan to pay it back. All they are doing is borrowing more money to make it "somebody else's problem." Neither they nor the American people want to hear what it would take.

When somebody robs your store and takes everything you have, what do you do? You can't "find" new inventory for free, now can you? You live very cheap. You go hungry. You have to rebuild over a long period of sacrifice.

Well, try telling that to Merril Lynch, or Citibank, or Merck, or Exxon, ... or to the American public. See if you ever get a single policy passed, or ever get reelected.

And that is why the economy keeps slipping into the abyss.

Posted by: mmagliaro | February 15, 2011 11:41 AM | Report abuse

He needs to do things that build the economy, not take from one to give to another. Raising taxes is always an economy killer...it is just pseudo-inflation: Raise taxes here, raise prices there, businesses don't pay taxes that they don't collect from customers first!

Posted by: austexcal | February 15, 2011 11:41 AM | Report abuse

The corporate Republicanism espoused by those Rep. in office is to keep tax cuts, not touch defense, so their only option would be to eliminate every other dollar not spent on defense and we still wouldn't have a balanced enough budget to reduce the deficit! Where were they when Reagan expanded govt. & increased debt, and Bush started two wars off the books while reducing taxes, which had never been done before? The answer is capital gains back to where it was, raise taxes,stop subsidizing big pharma with non-negotiated senior drug pricing, stop subsidizing oil exploration, and eliminate farm subsidies, than cut defense from 60% of federal budget to 40%. Problem solved.

Posted by: crossroadsnow | February 15, 2011 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Whether you liked W or not, he was a leader; he took clear and strong stands. It is extremely disappointing to see Obama refuse to take a strong stand on Entitlement spending. If he is too afraid to take a stand, he should step aside and let someone else lead. That's the job description of the office of President.

Posted by: rondonaz | February 15, 2011 11:43 AM | Report abuse

These articles are just a waste of ink and time. There is no physical way on this planet for Obama or anyone else to effectively reduce or eliminate the deficit. Ever single dollar issued is a dollar of debt. The only way the Government can obtain a dollar is to borrow it . When the taxpayer sends his payment to the Government, he is just returning the IOU's that the FED issued
The only way out of debt would be to return all of the IOU's, but then we would have no legal tender. We would be dead broke. If Obama or anyone else is ever going to get us out of debt and into the Green is to stop borrowing thin air from the FED and Paying interest on it which must be paid by borrowing some more air to pay it with. The Government is supposed to be issuing currency and coinage and if they did the cost would be in the paper and ink. and we would never have a deficit. Such a monumental problem with a simple solution. Makes you wonder about the IQ level of our population.
Simple to manage the transition too. For every tax dollar returned to the FED the Treasury would print a US dollar to replace the bank note and it would be unencumbered.

Posted by: peterb37 | February 15, 2011 11:44 AM | Report abuse

The President is being criticized from all sides for his first pass at the 2012 budget. Yet he is the only one to propose a budget. And, he may be the shrewdest politician of all. Major criticism is he did not touch entitlements. Will the Republicans? He has gone first. Now, they have their chance and watch how they navigate around the entitlement issue OR do actually address it, cause an uproar, and the President steps in and says he is willing to discuss and compromise. This leaves the impression he is conciliatory, the GOP are uncaring and wish to cut Medicare, Medicaid, and/or Social Security and in the end he wins. Never underestimate his political savvy. The GOP has and always will, and they always come up short. His approval rating continues to rise and 2 months in the approval of the Republican House is at an all time low.

Posted by: jacksoncage | February 15, 2011 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Good heavens! How can Cohen and Craighill spin a fact that almost 70% of Americans are unhappy with Obama's "handling" of the deficit into "but he's better off than Clinton was in 1995"??? What a fine attempt at misdirection, gentlemen. Too bad some of us are not fooled...

Posted by: DrHerbeckDMD | February 15, 2011 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Back in the 1990s (remember the 90s?), when asked by pollsters, Americans consistently ranked balancing the budget and deficit reduction as top priorities. And much progress toward those ends was accomplished in the 90s. Then came the first decade of the 21st century and everyone seemed to fall silent on those issues. Did the pollsters stop asking? Did the politicians no longer think those issues were important to us? I don't know. What I do know is that in the first decade of the 21st century our spending escalated and our revenues decreased and any hope for balancing any budget flew right out the window, resulting in budget deficits that would have been unthinkable just ten years earlier. Still, no one seemed to care, that is, until September 2008, when our economy hovered near the brink of total collapse. Perilous times back in 2008...remember 2008? I sure do. Then suddenly, in 2009, the media and the politicians and the pollsters and the public all seemed to emerge from their collective unconsciousness and rediscover the issues of balancing the budget (hopeless at that point) and reducing the deficit (not a prayer for that anytime soon)and all acted like they'd championed those goals all along, when, in fact, they'd ignored them while we almost destroyed our own economy. So many seem to think our economic and budgetary woes began in 2009. Where has everyone been? Can we not read bar graphs? Do we really think we can look away for a decade and then get all riled up when, one day, we notice something is amiss? No matter *who* was elected to the Presidency in 2008, that person had a colossal mess to deal with upon taking office, a mess that would clearly take years, if not decades, to right. We are no longer on the edge of the cliff, as we were in 2008, but we do have a long way to go to *fix* our economy and re-prioritize our government spending and revenue collection. Things are clearly not worse now than they were in September 2008 so I am puzzled as to why some people are in such a panic, just now? I think we're going to pull through this thing, together, gradually. Maybe the scare of 2008 woke enough of us up so that we won't be so lazy and uninterested going forward. I sure hope so.

Posted by: wabisabi | February 15, 2011 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Back in the 1990s (remember the 90s?), when asked by pollsters, Americans consistently ranked balancing the budget and deficit reduction as top priorities. And much progress toward those ends was accomplished in the 90s. Then came the first decade of the 21st century and everyone seemed to fall silent on those issues. Did the pollsters stop asking? Did the politicians no longer think those issues were important to us? I don't know. What I do know is that in the first decade of the 21st century our spending escalated and our revenues decreased and any hope for balancing any budget flew right out the window, resulting in budget deficits that would have been unthinkable just ten years earlier. Still, no one seemed to care, that is, until September 2008, when our economy hovered near the brink of total collapse. Perilous times back in 2008...remember 2008? I sure do. Then suddenly, in 2009, the media and the politicians and the pollsters and the public all seemed to emerge from their collective unconsciousness and rediscover the issues of balancing the budget (hopeless at that point) and reducing the deficit (not a prayer for that anytime soon)and all acted like they'd championed those goals all along, when, in fact, they'd ignored them while we almost destroyed our own economy. So many seem to think our economic and budgetary woes began in 2009. Where has everyone been? Can we not read bar graphs? Do we really think we can look away for a decade and then get all riled up when, one day, we notice something is amiss? No matter *who* was elected to the Presidency in 2008, that person had a colossal mess to deal with upon taking office, a mess that would clearly take years, if not decades, to right. We are no longer on the edge of the cliff, as we were in 2008, but we do have a long way to go to *fix* our economy and re-prioritize our government spending and revenue collection. Things are clearly not worse now than they were in September 2008 so I am puzzled as to why some people are in such a panic, just now? I think we're going to pull through this thing, together, gradually. Maybe the scare of 2008 woke enough of us up so that we won't be so lazy and uninterested going forward. I sure hope so.

Posted by: wabisabi | February 15, 2011 11:59 AM | Report abuse

I think he's doing a terrible job.

Posted by: barnyfife | February 15, 2011 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Currently, tax revenues to the federal government amount to around 15% of GDP. The norm over the last 50 years is around 17 - 18%. With an additional 30 million people a few years from going into retirement, we may have to consider additional revenue.

Posted by: henryj99 | February 17, 2011 12:21 PM | Report abuse

austexcal said: "Raising taxes is always an economy killer"

You couldn't be more wrong. Just look back to 1993 - Republicans said the same thing about Clinton's increase in taxes on high-income taxpayers and gas tax increase. What followed was a balanced budget, the longest period in our history without a recession, a tripling of the Dow-Jones average and unemployment that dropped below 4% for the last four months of 2000! In short, tax increases were followed by the greatest economic period in the history of the US.

Posted by: hawkeyes1 | February 17, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

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