Lott: The missing mandate in Obama's stimulus

John Lott wonders what happened to the Barack Obama economic stimulus plan.  Not the one that will make its bloated way out of the Senate today, nor the one that passed the House last week, but the plan on which Obama campaigned.  After all, Lott argues, if Obama wants to claim a mandate, shouldn’t it rest on the plan he proposed to voters before November?

At the very end of the presidential campaign Obama “proposed a $175 billion plan with tax-rebate checks for consumers as well as spending on school repairs, roads and bridges, aid to states, and tax credits for job creation.”

The current bill is not only spending 4.7 times what he promised in November, but gone are the tax-rebate checks and tax credits for job creation. The new additional programs have nothing to do with roads and bridges. Yet, a package that Obama never hinted at a couple of months ago is now considered sacrosanct. The Associated Press described Obama’s position on the stimulus plan this way: “Stopping just short of a take-it-or-leave-it stand, Obama has mocked the notion that a stimulus bill shouldn’t include huge spending.”

And not just on the stimulus, either:

During the third presidential debate Obama promised to rein in the budget deficit. When moderator Bob Schieffer asked Obama what he was going to do about the deficit Obama promised to cut the it: “But there is no doubt that we’ve been living beyond our means and we’re going to have to make some adjustments. Now, what I’ve done throughout this campaign is to propose a net spending cut.”

Or take the second presidential debate on October 7, 2008. Obama noted that eliminating earmarks was “important,” but even more important “I want to go line by line through every item in the federal budget and eliminate programs that don’t work and make sure that those that do work, work better and cheaper.” This was his constant theme during the presidential debates to cut government.

In fact, this pledge led to one of John McCain’s better moments in the debates.  When Obama made those pledges, McCain immediately challenged Obama to name a program he’d cut.  McCain had long fought against spending, in both general and specific terms, and rattled off a few programs that he’d axe, but Obama was left sputtering about reviews, analyses, and promised he’d get back to us.

Suddenly after taking office, all spending now qualifies as stimulus.  Gone are Obama’s pledges to cut useless programs in order to maintain fiscal responsibility.  Now, he decries the budget deficit he “inherited” while pushing plans to multiply it.

Lott’s point is especially timely, considering Walt Minnick’s START proposal.  It spends almost exactly what Obama promised during the campaign, in almost exactly the manner Obama proposed at that time.  Shouldn’t Obama seize that as his mandate, since voters elected him on that basis, rather than the Omnibus Pork Package wending its way through Congress?  And why hasn’t the media noted this similarity, and asked Obama why he’s not honoring his campaign promise by supporting Minnick’s bill instead of Nancy Pelosi’s?