The message the appropriators took from Mr. Orszag’s finger-pointing is that it’s OK to continue business as usual. I believe Mr. Obama is open to a different course. I was one of the few Republicans who applauded his modest call for specific spending cuts earlier this year. If he overrides the dogmatic wing of his party that believes spending money during a recession is always helpful—however wasteful it may be—he’ll find an army of allies among the American people.

Congressional leaders have been using apocalyptic rhetoric about angry “mobs,” “un-American” protestors and “evil-mongers” at town halls because they know that voter concerns about spending may not only derail the “public option” in health-care reform but could turn into a referendum on our real problems—our crushing burden of government and the politicians who defend the status quo. For the sake of future generations, such a referendum couldn’t come soon enough.