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Political Physics: The Unexpected Democrat Snag


a blogumn by Monique King-Viehland

Is the Democratic Party the Biggest Threat to a Successful Obama Presidency?

demdonkeyA recently released government report found that unemployment in the US hit a 16-year high of 7.2 percent in December, an estimated 11 million Americans are out of work and the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the federal budget deficit will soar at least to a record $1.2 trillion this year.  It stands to reason that any self-respecting President-Elect would be working hard on a place to deal with our nation’s economic crisis.

So I wasn’t surprised when Obama presented his economic plan last week.  The foundation of the plan is a $775 billion economic stimulus package that would create new jobs by:

*Building roads, bridges and other needed infrastructure;
*Doubling alternative energy production over three years;
*Modernizing 75% of federal buildings and improving the energy efficiency of 2 million homes;
*Putting American medical records online within five years;
*Equipping schools, community colleges and public universities with modern classrooms and libraries;
*Expanding broadband Internet access across the USA; and
*Investing in science, research and technology.

Obama estimates that his plan would create 3.5 million new jobs and boost the US economy.

But this plan has critics, and the major ones may not be whom you’d expect.  Congressional Republicans, for the most part, have been strangely silent about the plan except for the obvious argument about more government spending when we are already facing a $1.2 trillion deficit.

No the major criticism of the Obama Economic Plan have come from Obama’s fellow Democrats.

According to the Associated Press, “many Democrats aren’t thrilled with Obama’s business tax cut plans and are griping that there’s not enough money in the measure for traditional infrastructure projects like road construction and water projects or for tax credits to promote renewable energy.“

Senator Kent Conrad, D-N.D., was critical of a proposed tax break for workers and their families. “Twenty bucks a week. How much of a lift is that going to give?” he said.  Nor did he sound positive about a proposed tax break for businesses to create jobs. “If I’m a business person, it’s unlikely if you give me a several thousand dollar credit that I’m going to hire people if I can’t sell the products they’re producing,” he said.  Conrad and others said Obama’s blueprint included about $10 billion in tax incentives related to energy, out of about $300 billion overall – a slice they said was too small.  And Senator John Kerry, D-Mass., said, “I’d rather spend the money on the infrastructure, on direct investment, on energy conversion, on other kinds of things that much more directly, much more rapidly and much more certainly create a real job.”

Now, in fairness, not all Democrats are challenging the plan.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-C.A. and Senator Barbara Boxer, D-C.A. have publically supported Obama.  But is that enough?

CBS News reported “beyond the emerging rifts — and the openness with which Democrats are pushing back against some of Obama’s ideas — is the sheer enormity of crafting such a complex, controversial measure in just weeks.  [Any] lawmakers’ insistence on making changes could delay the recovery plan beyond a mid-February deadline declared by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.”  And outside of the disagreements on what to focus on and how much, congressional Democrats are making it clear they want to put their own stamp on the economic plan, despite potential delays.

According to a recent Politico/Allstate poll, by a large majority, voters favor President-elect Barack Obama’s wide-ranging policy prescriptions to aid the faltering economy.  The survey of 1,007 registered voters conducted Dec. 27-29 showed that 79 percent of respondents favored Obama’s plan.
But even with the data pointing to an imploding economy and the American public clamoring for help, can Obama get his economic plan off the ground without his own party?  And more importantly, is the Democrat party going to be the greatest hindrance to a successful Obama Presidency?
Only time will tell.  But the whole deal reminds me of one of my favorite cartoons.  Check it out below, it was drawn during the NJ Budget Battle in 2006.