Big Government: The cultural issue

As Pres. Obama’s $3.8 trillion budget lands with a thud, The Hill asked commentators, legislators and intellectuals whether approving it will hurt Democrats in November. Kudos to Sydelle Moore for ordering the responses to allow the Instapundit to prebut the founder of Craigslist:

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit said:

Yes. One telling indicator is a growing effort by the remaining Obama partisans to paint Bush as an equivalent big spender, even though the Bush deficits were much smaller than Obama’s, and declining thoughout most of his second term. Not that Bush was any prize, but Obama’s deficits are of an entirely different magnitude.

Obama’s deficits are unsustainable, and obviously so. To use Al Gore’s frog-boiling metaphor, the stove may have been on “simmer” before, but Obama has turned it up to “11” and now the frog is kicking.

Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, said:

Most of the deficit was directly or indirectly inherited from prior years. If that’s honestly communicated in the media, then the people who caused the deficit will have problems.

If honestly communicated, then this helps the Democrats.

Seems like the people who complain about this budget are the people who caused it. We need more honesty about that.

The Instapundit’s link provides a graphic refutation of Newmark’s claim that Obama’s deficits were inherited from the Bush administration or the GOP Congress. Ironically, Newmark is correct in the larger sense. The federal government’s structural deficits are inherited from an entire series of prior administrations. Quite a bit of those inherited problems stem from entitlement programs passed on a bipartisan basis — though Democrats prefer to take all of the credit, and none of the blame for them.

However, the smartest answer to the question of whether Obama’s big-taxing, even bigger-spending, deficit-growing and government-growing budget will hurt Democrats may come from National Review’s Rich Lowry, who compares Obama’s current predicament to that of Bill Clinton:

The backlash against Democrats in 1994 was famously attributed to “gays, guns, and God.” Obama has mostly avoided stoking opposition around that hot-button triad, but faces a very similar backlash. Why?

Big government became a cultural issue. The level of spending, the bailouts, and the extent of the intervention in the economy contemplated in health-care reform and cap-and-trade created the fear that something elemental was changing in the country — quickly and irrevocably.

Just as Clinton ran up against the country’s cultural conservatism, so has Obama. But Obama is encountering its fiscal expression, the sense that America has always been defined by a more stringently limited government than other advanced countries. If Obama is rebuked in November, it won’t be a “gays, guns, and God” backlash, but an “American exceptionalism” backlash.

Obama has added fuel to it with his serial apologies for America and his cringing attitude abroad, which has made him sound, in John Bolton’s evocative phrase, like a “post-American” president.

Arguing the numbers in Pres. Obama’s budget is a crucial and important debate… among policy wonks. In the broader public, it merely adds to the perception that Obama is keen on converting the United States into a Euro-style, corporatist, social democracy. That is a bad look for an election year.