But Galston rightly reminded us, and Obama, that "current circumstances in the United States do not approach the gravity of the situation FDR faced when he took office." The nation's gross domestic product (GDP), the measure of all our economy produces, "has fallen at an annual rate of about 6 percent from its 2008 peak; by 1933, GDP had fallen nearly 40 percent from four years earlier." Unemployment, though severe at 8.9 percent, is up from 4.9 percent a year ago, while 25 percent were jobless in 1933, including 37 percent in the farming sector.
The nation's economic and fiscal policies need some pro-growth fine-tuning, but not another and even costlier New Deal.
Fortunately, presidents propose and Congresses dispose, and there are some early signs that key parts of Obama's agenda have run into resistance, in some cases, from the president's Democratic allies.
Democratic leaders have been forced to significantly modify parts of the administration's cap-and-trade energy tax bill because it did not have the votes to pass the House. Even with those changes, analysts say the plan may not overcome a filibuster in the Senate, where Midwestern Democrats fear it will hurt their coal-driven economies.
More than climate change is riding on the bill. Obama is counting on the huge tax revenue it is supposed to raise to finance his $1 trillion national health care plan. That revenue has been sharply cut back.
His revenue-raising proposals to cap tax deductions for charitable contributions and home-mortgage interest are dead on arrival, Democrats say, further depriving him of funds for health care reform.
Even with his party firmly in control of both chambers, Obama admitted that he does not have the votes to pass the so-called "card check" bill to make it easier to unionize businesses and that it will have to undergo revisions.
Meantime, spending critics say Obama's FDR-inspired agenda will bury America in historic levels of new debt on top of unfathomable levels of unfunded liabilities that start with $35 trillion for Medicare over the next 75 years. "Taxpayers cannot even pay for the commitments we already have made for Social Security and Medicare, and yet he wants to add trillions of dollars in additional spending on top of that," said Heritage Foundation chief budget analyst Brian Riedl.
"At the end of the day, his numbers don't add up," said Marc Goldwein, policy director at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. "They want to do everything, and it's just not realistic."
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