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The Obama Presidency

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

ECONOMY

'New Road Map' Looks Familiar

President Obama and Vice President Biden announced yesterday a new "road map to recovery," intended to speed up stimulus spending and rebut the perception that the $787 billion stimulus package is not yet having much of an impact on job creation, given the 9.4 percent unemployment rate.

The list of spending plans detailed under the road map amounted to little more than a restatement of plans already underway for the coming months, without any explanation of what steps, if any, the White House would take to accelerate the pace of spending. And the push to spin the package was accompanied by a classic Biden misstatement -- that a big chunk of the money was geared toward "make-work projects."

As it stands, about $135 billion of the stimulus money has already been "obligated" -- that is, either sent out the door or approved to the point that it's sitting in a government account waiting for a state or other recipient to draw on it.

The White House has cautioned for weeks that the money wouldn't really start having an impact until this summer and fall, once various programs got up and running. Its goal, it says, is to spend 70 percent of the money by the end of the summer of 2010. But there are signs that the money is flowing even more slowly than the White House had led people to expect.

The Republican National Committee said that the new road map was a sign that the White House was losing this particular political battle.

-- Alec MacGillis

Poll Shows Skepticism

National Republicans, desperate for a bit of good news, have seized on a new Gallup poll that indicates growing skepticism among the American people about the direction of the economy and the approach being taken by President Obama.

The poll, which was in the field at the end of May, showed 55 percent of the sample approving of how Obama was handling the economy, with 42 percent disapproving. That disapproval number is up significantly from February's 30 percent, in another Gallup survey. (The earlier poll showed 59 percent approved of his handling of the economy.)

The data also showed the public divided on how Obama is handling the federal budget deficit -- 46 percent approving and 48 percent disapproving -- and slightly more negative than positive on how the administration is "controlling federal spending" (45 percent approve/51 percent disapprove).

"As the debt grows, so too does American discontent with the seemingly daily increase in red ink," said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). "The fact that the federal government is doing the equivalent of taking a cash advance to make the minimum payment on the debt doesn't inspire confidence, and it shows."

Republicans have long held that Obama himself is far more popular than his policies. The Gallup data would seem to back up that contention: Despite his somewhat mediocre numbers on the economy, Obama remains wildly popular. Nearly seven in 10 voters (67 percent) view him favorably, while 32 percent view him in an unfavorable light.

-- Chris Cillizza

HEALTH CARE

GOP Senators Say No To 'Public Option'

Nine of the 10 Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee advised President Obama yesterday that they are opposed to inclusion of a "public option" for insurance in any health-care overhaul. Their message illustrated what has become the sharpest divide between the two parties on health care.

"Washington-run programs undermine market-based competition through their ability to impose price controls and shift costs to other purchasers," the Republicans wrote. "Forcing free market plans to compete with these government-run programs would create an unlevel playing field and inevitably doom true competition."

Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (Maine) was the only GOP member of the committee not to sign the letter. The Finance Committee has been meeting for weeks to hash out a bipartisan compromise on health-care legislation.

Obama told Congress last week of his support for creating a government-sponsored insurance program to compete directly with existing private insurance plans.

The top Republican on the committee, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), has sharply criticized Obama for that, but the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a group of more than 70 of the most liberal Democrats in the House, is insisting any health-care legislation include a "public option."

-- Perry Bacon Jr.

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