That political anxiety explains why suddenly Obama is now referencing his long-neglected Bowles-Simpson commission on fiscal responsibility and reform -- as if the former public relations move is suddenly welcome proof of the president's long-held fiscal sobriety and sincerity.
The mega-borrowing also did not lead to the robust economic recovery of the cyclical sort that usually follows a steep recession. Unemployment is still at 9.2 percent. GDP remains anemic. Energy prices are still sky-high. The housing market continues to be depressed. Consumer and business confidence is flat.
Finally, it is almost impossible to find any major economist who still argues for greater deficits. Those who once advocated printing our way out of the doldrums -- Austan Goolsbee, Peter Orszag, Christina Romer, and Larry Summers -- have all left the administration, or intend to, about midway through its first term. They seem more likely to assign the administration's 2009-2011 economic record to others than claim it proudly as their own.
Note that there is no current example that might suggest big deficit spending leads to national prosperity. The unsustainable debts of Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain have nearly wrecked the European Union. Most consider a fiscally prudent Texas or Utah to be a better job creator than debt-ridden blue states such as California, Illinois and New York. Scholars who analyzed the 2008 financial meltdown see its origins not just in Wall Street greed, but also in massive government intervention into the subprime mortgage markets and in misdirected federal efforts to ensure capital for bankers to lend to unqualified buyers.
So opposition to the president's budget proposals amounts to more than just a know-nothing rant about no taxes, period. The unease reflects genuine puzzlement -- and, yes, anger -- over a president addicted to debt, who suddenly wants to preach to others about their responsibility to pay back what he once so zealously advocated that we should borrow.
In short, those in recovery rarely make good puritans.
(Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of "The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern" You can reach him by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.)