Seven months after taking office amid a religious-like faith that he was the one (or even The One) we had been waiting for, President Obama is beginning to resemble a shooting star.
A new USA Today-Gallup Poll finds that 57 percent of adults believe the president's $787 billion economic stimulus package is having "no impact on the economy or making it worse." The poll asked six questions, and the answers reveal that Mr. Obama's short-term fixes are producing long-term anxiety. Fifty-four percent told pollsters they think the economy will still be in a recession one year from now. Forty-six percent are "very worried" that stimulus money has been wasted. Significantly, a combined 70 percent say the spending will either have no effect on their personal financial situation (36 percent) or that it will make it worse (34 percent).
Yes, two years into Ronald Reagan's first term economic forecasts also were bleak, but Mr. Reagan's faith was in tax cuts and allowing Americans to restart the U.S. economic engine. Mr. Obama's faith is in higher taxes, more spending and government to not only start the engine, but build the engine.
An indication of how quickly Mr. Obama's shooting star may be burning out is the failure of a White House appeal to the president's massive e-mail list to get fired up about health care reform.
Mr. Obama's people thought the youthful enthusiasm of the presidential campaign could be transformed into an army that would roll over opposition to its policy initiatives. So far, that army has been AWOL, apparently preferring to live real lives rather than be caught up in the phony posturing and preening of Washington politicians and bureaucrats.
"What exactly is our problem with government spending?" asks American Enterprise Institute President Arthur C. Brooks in a recent Wall Street Journal column. "It is not just that we think it is wasteful and ineffective (although most recognize this to be true). Americans actually think the government makes it harder for people to get ahead in life."
Mr. Brooks is right. Most Americans see government as a last resort, not a first resource. They want it to protect us from foreign dictators and domestic charlatans who would injure or destroy our liberties. The preservation of liberty allows individual citizens the opportunity to advance toward the highest levels of achievement consistent with their skills and persistence. The growing opposition to Mr. Obama comes from people who see his administration as making it more difficult to receive the "Blessings of Liberty," as our Constitution's Preamble so elegantly put it. It also said "We the People," not "you the government."
The Founders wanted government to be small, responsive to the people and attentive to their hunger for liberty. They did not conceive the unresponsive monstrosity we now have (the reason for so much anger at many town-hall meetings), that is unproductive (waste, fraud and abuse) and unattractive (politicians who are careerists rather than true servants of the people). It is a bipartisan affliction as we saw when Republicans controlled all three branches of government and too many appeared out for themselves rather than the public interest.
Another Gallup Poll has found that self-identified conservatives now outnumber self-identified liberals in all 50 states (with self-described moderates acting as swing voters). More Americans now say they are conservative than have made the claim in any of the last four years. If conservatives and Republicans (not always the same) are to take advantage of Mr. Obama's declining approval numbers, they must fashion a message that begins not in Washington, but in the heart of every individual.
I have a suggestion. Unlike Mr. Obama's "Yes We Can" slogan of the last campaign, how about "Yes You Can"? The rebuilding of the country can begin when more of "We the People" realize that real power lies within each of us and not in Washington. Where are the political leaders to deliver this message? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.