President Obama is a man in a hurry. He knows that time is not on his side. He will never be as powerful as he is now, and his opposition — the leaderless GOP — will never be as weak.
So he pushes hard to win acceptance of as much of his agenda as possible, but the inevitable erosion has already begun.
Last month, his approval rating was in the mid-60s. Now it's in the high 50s. Last week a Zogby poll had him at 50 percent.
Many voters are increasingly put off by the spectacle in Washington. A couple of recent polls showed that Republicans are even or slightly ahead in the generic vote for Congress. U.S. News & World Report's Michael Barone figures the GOP isn't doing better. Rather, the Democrats are doing worse.
The fraudulent stimulus package – much of which was loaded up with non-stimulus social spending – probably has a lot to do with it.
But perhaps what worries many voters most is the promiscuous overreaching on display. What we're watching is an astonishing power grab.
The White House has announced that it wants the government to regulate executive pay at financial companies, even those that haven't taken bailout money.
The Environmental Protection Agency wants to tell every business how much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases it can emit.
And on Capitol Hill, House Democrats have been talking about using the budget-reconciliation process to ram through a makeover of our health care system. Keep in mind that reconciliation is a fast-track process that limits debate and restricts amendments.
Using this sort of conduit for health care reform would be an outrageous abuse of a process designed not for major policy changes, but for budget and tax issues. Something as big as health care reform requires a broad consensus, but in the Senate it would need only 51 votes rather than the 60 required for most major pieces of legislation.
Meanwhile, Obama continues to engage in a weird sort of disconnection as he promotes his $3.6 trillion budget.
Passing the budget, he said during his news conference last week, is essential. It is "inseparable" from any economic recovery. Why? Because the budget would reform health care and education, and transform our patterns of energy use.
Yet as several bloggers have pointed out, if health care reform is some sort of economic tonic, why has the current crisis also swept European countries, which went through health care reform years ago?
Then there's his energy plan, which calls for a cap-and-trade scheme that would squeeze $646 billion out of the economy in eight years and no doubt permanently damage our manufacturing economy.
Even the estimate of $646 billion may be too low. Obama aide Jason Furman recently told a meeting of Senate staffers that cap and trade could cost perhaps three times the initial estimate.
Obama said it was time for "serious efforts" to reduce the federal deficit, but his budget does the opposite. According to the Congressional Budget Office, Obama's would increase the public debt by $2.3 trillion more than the White House estimates.
Even Alice Rivlin, Bill Clinton's former budget director, says Obama's budget would "raise deficits to unsustainable levels well after the economy recovers."
A sign of where we may be heading came last week, when a British government bond auction failed to draw enough buyers to fully subscribe an issue of 40-year bonds. In the U.S., demand for a new issue of 5-year notes was unexpectedly weak – a jarring signal from investors that demand for public debt has limits.
Obama, unfortunately, seems determined to test the limits.