Peggy Noonan usually offers interesting observations about politics and the national mood. Her most recent column is about President Obama’s decision to appoint a bipartisan budget commission and about the national mood on spending. In brief, she believes that the appointment of the commission may be viewed as a fresh approach that is helpful to the President and that there is a deep concern in the country about runaway government spending and the resulting massive budget deficits and mounting national debt.
I agree with Noonan on the latter point, but not the former. I think people are extraordinarily worried about the direction of the country and the obvious inability of our elected representatives, from the President on down, to act responsibly and courageously when it comes to spending. We are seeing no signs that Congress and the President really share our concern — as opposed to mouthing the standard platitudes — and will do something about it. That is why I disagree with Noonan on the former point. I think most people will view the bipartisan commission as a feeble dodge, a way for the President to pass the buck on his budgeting responsibilities. The reality is that we do not need another commission to hold hearings and eventually author a long report that no one will read. Instead, we need elected representatives who actually do their jobs, make tough choices, and take the political heat that results because they know as a country we have no other choice. In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie has done exactly that, in an effort to bring New Jersey’s budget woes under control. No one in Washington has stepped up in similar fashion.
This is a big part of the reason why I think President Obama is falling so dramatically in the polls. Many of the people who voted for the President had faith in his ability to do things differently and to make a real, meaningful change in how our country and our political systems operate. So far, he has not delivered. Appointing another “bipartisan commission” of former politicians and Washington insiders doesn’t seem like any change at all, much less anything meaningful. I think the President risks losing the faith of most of the people who voted for him, and once faith is gone it is hard to regain.