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That sinking feeling

 

For President Obama, the numbers appear to tell the story. The poll numbers, that is.

And for the White House, the story might not have a happy ending on Nov. 2.

With less than two months until the midterm elections, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that Americans are frustrated with the slow economic recovery and likely will make Mr. Obama and Democrats in Congress pay for it. Indeed, some political experts think this year could be a repeat of 1994, when the Republicans gained control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate-a suggestion that would have been laughed off only a few months ago.

The president’s overall job rating hit a new low in Post-ABC polling; only 46 percent of respondents gave him a positive mark while 52 percent graded him negatively. Fifty-seven percent now say they disapprove of how he’s handling the economy.

This is good news for Republicans, of course, but they should not be too smug. Americans don’t think much of GOP lawmakers either, the poll indicates. Nearly 80 percent in the Post-ABC poll said they are dissatisfied or angry about how Washington works.

Anti-incumbent sentiment also was evident in this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll. Well over half of respondents said they would not vote to re-elect their congressional representative. And nearly 90 percent said they disapprove of the job Congress has been doing.

With clear signs that the recovery is stuck in first gear and Americans’ confidence about the economy sinking, Mr. Obama this week unveiled a package of tax incentives and infrastructure spending designed to produce a growth jolt. But congressional lawmakers of both parties, sizing up the politics of the moment, gave his proposals a tepid greeting.

This is understandable but unfortunate. The proposal to let companies immediately deduct 100 percent of new investments in equipment through 2011 is an idea long supported by Republicans. Whether it would have a big stimulative impact is debatable, but as conservative economist Gregory Mankiw put it, "Let’s not make the best the enemy of the good."

Added Mr. Mankiw: "I hope Congress passes it quickly and in a bipartisan fashion." Good luck with that.

9/3/10 (c) 2010 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail rbj@rbj.net.

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