WASHINGTON -- Five months into his presidency, the biggest items on Barack Obama's agenda are in deep trouble, and support for his handling the economy and a ballooning budget deficit is plummeting.
The national news media was still trying to deal with the administration's agenda as gently as possible, as if everything was on a steady course. But his top proposals are dangerously off course and headed for defeat.
Healthcare reform is mired in Democratic dissension, especially on the sky-high taxes needed to pay for it. His revenue-raising, inflationary, climate-change "cap and trade" energy bill is all but dead. His economic-stimulus plan has failed to create anywhere near the jobs he said it would, amid growing public doubts that the nearly $800 billion spending scheme will work at all.
There is even deeper public concern over a nearly $2 trillion budget deficit, according to recent newspaper polls that show a large majority of Americans want to slow down government spending -- even if it means a slower economic recovery.
Despite the severity of the recession, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll published last Thursday showed that 58 percent said Congress and the president should focus more on reducing the deficit, even if that resulted in a longer economic downturn. Just 35 percent said stimulating the economy was more important, even if it meant higher deficits.
More ominously, the polls showed continuing slippage in Obama's job-approval scores. The New York Times/CBS News poll found 63 percent approved of the overall job he is doing, down from 68 percent in April. The Wall Street Journal poll showed his approval dropping to 56 percent from 61 percent in April.
Reflecting widespread anxiety over worsening unemployment and an economy still in the doldrums, the Journal poll showed that only a bare majority (51 percent) approved his handling of the economy, down from 55 percent in April.
The huge budget deficits under Obama's big-spending plans were a source of worry, too. "Six in 10 people surveyed said the administration has yet to develop a clear plan for dealing with the deficit, including 65 percent of independents," the Times reported.
These numbers, the Wall Street Journal said Friday, "raised red flags at the White House that the president ... is losing some ground with the public on his economic policies," as the jobless rate rose to 9.4 percent in May and the administration said it would likely exceed 10 percent in the coming months.