Not long ago, Obama asked his departments to quickly find $100 million in spending cuts. Everyone tittered. But it isn't a joke. In about a month, Obama is likely to announce a major initiative of some kind, with the aim of cutting spending and setting up a much smaller budget for next year.
Let's look at the politics. Obama's personal popularity is up to 81 percent, which is just God-like. Once Obama passes health care this summer, his reelection is probably a done deal. The only avenue the Republicans have, for counterattacking, is hollering for three years about government spending.
When Obama was working on this year's two massive budget bills, he also disclosed that his aim is to drastically cut the deficit in his first term. This is a work of political genius: you pass a gigantic budget right off the bat, trim down the size of the next three budgets, and then during the 2012 campaign take credit as the guy who cut the deficit -- just by frontloading his spending programs. This is right out of Machiavelli: dole out the bad news as soon as you take office, all at once, and thereafter you pass out the goodies bit after bit after bit, to keep up your popularity.
However the Republicans are going to force his hand a bit. They already started the big-spender meme with the tea parties, which was silly because tea protests are all aboout high taxes and Obama just cut their taxes. But the Republicans plan to come back with more tea-party nonsense on the Fourth of July, to reinforce the big-spender theme against Obama. And then keep up with that attack until the end of the year, to include the health care battle this summer.
So to preempt that, Obama is likely to come out, perhaps around June 1, with a major initiative to lay out the framework for next year's budget, on a much smaller frame than this year's. And keep hammering that theme all year.
You heard it here first!