Caution: Presidential Pivot Ahead

( – promoted by Rob “EaBo Clipper” Eno)

President Obama speaks in the State of the Union tonight, and is likely expected to moderate his message and move to the center in an attempt to win back the electorate before the 2012 Presidential election. While his words are going to be portrayed as contrite and moderating by the media, his proposals are not really what they seem. The President was able to do much of what he wanted in his first two years, and now his proposals are more about keeping his policies in place and positioning himself for reelection than they are about helping the country.

Sure, it sounds good to propose capping spending for the next 5 years, but that’s only after ramping up spending and debt to historic levels. His proposal is more about maintaining spending levels than being economically responsible. The increased money spent over the past couple years was billed as special short-term expenditures in order to bring us out of a recession. Now, President Obama is trying to make sure we maintain those spending levels instead of reducing spending as we should. Like much of the President’s rhetoric, his call for restraint and the actions of his administration are in conflict. He talks about working together and being civil while his Treasury Secretary issues a memo to the Congress demanding an increase in the debt ceiling or else there would be “catastrophic consequences that would last for decades.” Wow, we sure did move fast from a “Summer of Recovery” to an economy on the brink.

Similarly, the President is paying the same lip service to the concerns of businesses in the United States. An article in the Economist, details that the Obama administration has implemented 40% more “economically significant” regulations that either President Bush or President Clinton.  Over the past 2 years, as private sector employment has been falling, the regulatory workforce has increased by 16%. Now, the President is promising a review and rollback of existing regulations in order to spur business growth.  The problem is that while he is hinting at reduced regulations, “many of the rules associated with the newly passed health-care and financial-reform laws are still to come.”

Since the President is not expected to announce anything substantive and is simply holding firm to the policies of his first two years in office, the real importance of the State of the Union address is whether or not the President can sell his reimaging to the populace. Will enough people forget about the past two years now believe that the President is putting jobs first and cares about restraining spending? The President sure hopes so as he will focus on “winning the future” much like President Clinton focused on “building a bridge to the future.” It’s also similar to what we saw in Massachusetts with Deval “on the mend, on the move” Patrick, as President Obama wants to shift the discussion away from what he actually did (or tried to do) in his early years in office. He wants to focus on a new round of promises, buttressed by legislative victories on more popular, but far less important, matters that will likely occur in the next couple of years.  On the other hand, the Republicans in Congress want to roll back some of the legislation, regulation and increased spending of the past two years. While they currently are voicing the opinion of the majority of Americans, they are more and more going to be branded as right-wing, far-right or tea-party as Obama pivots to the center.  They are faced with the tough task of rehashing some of the major issues of the past 2 years while the President has those legislative victories in hand and can just talk about wanting to “win the future.”

It’s obvious the President’s reelection campaign has already started. The question is if the Congressional Republicans realize it, and if they will be effective in countering it. If they don’t, any small successes they achieve over the next two years are likely to be dwarfed by the policies and regulations pushed forward during a second term for President Obama.

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