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“When the financial house is on fire, the first thing he may want to do is put out the fire and that could take some time,” Mr. Gale said.

“He could decide not to raise taxes in an economic downturn. The non-tax issues are going to take priority - financial reforms, energy and health care. It may be that tax increases being as controversial as they are, that is something they might want to pull back a little bit,” he said.

“He’s entering into an incredibly difficult situation with two major challenges. One, the economy that will require measures that cost money, and the budget which will require just the opposite,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

But the biggest problem for Mr. Obama will be dealing with a far more liberal Democratic Congress “that has a lot of pent-up spending demands and a country where there’s a lot of demand for new government involvement,” Ms. MacGuineas said.

“The short-term challenge for him will be to push back against the immense pressure that’s going to come from Congress to spend, spend, spend at a time when smart politicians will dress up their favorite programs as stimulus measures even when they’re not,” she said.