Skip to main content

Obama's math doesn't add up

By Erick Erickson, Special to CNN
  • Erick Erickson says president's proposals don't add up
  • He says you can't launch many ventures, avoid widespread tax hikes and still cut deficit
  • He says Obama's budget freeze doesn't cover many of big spending parts of government
  • Erickson: It's too late to blame nation's economic problems on Bush

Editor's note: Erick Erickson is the editor in chief of

(CNN) -- The White House is willing to admit after the drubbing in Massachusetts last week that President Obama has lost a key connection to middle-class voters.

It was refreshing to hear the president acknowledge that political reality during his State of the Union address. But a new laundry list of projects and a second stimulus plan couched as a jobs plan will not help the president reconnect to those voters -- or even reboot his agenda, despite his best attempt this week.

Barack Obama took to the podium before a joint session of Congress with an exceedingly difficult balancing act. He needed, on one hand, to show voters that he is concerned about spending and, on the other hand, to unveil policy initiatives for the coming year. Policy initiatives equal spending to most voters.

How the president will be able to cut the deficit while also increasing spending -- and not increasing taxes -- is a feat no president has ever accomplished and which this president also failed to explain in his speech.

Either taxes will be raised -- and not just on banks and individuals making more than $250,000 a year -- or spending must be cut. New program announcements complicate the equation.

Obama announced a freeze of discretionary spending, but it's in that part of the budget not pertaining to defense spending, Medicare, Social Security and a handful of other items. Everyone largely agrees that this will not solve the burgeoning deficit made large by President Bush and even larger by Obama.

In the first year of his administration, Obama presided over a unified Democrat-controlled government that grew discretionary spending by 20 percent.

The Hill reports that Rob Nabors, Obama's deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the discretionary spending freeze would not apply to all agencies, would be a "top line freeze," and does not apply to the massive health care bill or a new jobs bill. Nabors said the president considers the jobs and health care bills legislation to both create jobs and cut the deficit.

Thus far, despite the White House changing its tabulations frequently, the stimulus bill has failed to create very many jobs in the private sector, and the health care bill has little chance of cutting the deficit or even driving down health care costs, one of its purported goals. Few voters believe the president. His State of the Union address did little to help voters believe.

According to President George W. Bush's former deputy chief of staff and campaign strategist, Karl Rove, only eight of the past 25 State of the Union addresses have caused a president's poll numbers to go up. Every other time, the president's numbers go down.

Voters are predisposed to oppose increasing government, and presidential laundry lists presented to Congress inevitably have voters hearing the "cha-ching" of cash registers at every applause line -- and there were lots of bipartisan applause lines.

Voters see the first stimulus as a failure, understand that few private sector jobs were created by it and know intrinsically that any new programs will just compound government spending.

For the past year, this president has used "Bush" as his favorite four-letter word. Wednesday, the president repeatedly spoke derisively about the prior administration and the problems the Obama administration inherited. But the voters have moved on from blaming George W. Bush -- and Obama did not show voters he gets that and gets that new government jobs and new government programs are not the order of the day.

As much as he would prefer the present economic situation to still be George W. Bush's fault, the return policy has expired, and Barack Obama must now own it.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Erick Erickson.