July 20th, 2011
12:38 AM ET

Letters to the President: #912 'The rising movement for a balanced budget'

Reporter's Note: The press for a balanced budget amendment continues, as does my effort to write to the president every day.

Dear Mr. President,

Regardless of your political bent, it seems to me that it is relatively difficult to make the case against a balanced budget these days. I don’t mean in hard core economic terms. Heaven knows that economists can make the case for almost anything. I’m talking about in general, regular folks, public terms.

Related: House passes GOP debt measure; Obama praises compromise plan

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not choosing sides, or saying we should or should not have an amendment to that effect. I’m just saying that millions of American families have been forced by the economy to balance their own budgets, often at great hardship, and you can understand why they might bristle if DC appears to be telling them, “Nice job! But we don’t want to be troubled by such matters.”

This is the minefield you must negotiate: You must effectively argue against the Republican tactic without appearing to say, “No, I just want to go on spending.” Uh…unless of course, that is what you want to do…in which case, never mind.

The Republicans, whether they are being forthright or not, are going on record as saying the government ought not spend more than it takes in. (And yes, I am aware of the level of hypocrisy in this - as surely as I am aware of the hypocrisy in pretty much everything that goes on in this silly town.) On the face of it, an awful lot of voters in both major parties and in the middle can agree with that idea. The tea partiers are certainly on board.

As you try to push through some kind of deal on the debt, you’re going to have to time and again assure the public that you are serious about cutting spending, while defending the spending that you think is truly critical. Not an easy trick. And even that, I suspect, is not going to put this idea to rest. Sometimes political ideas simply seem to come into their time. And, again without taking sides, I have a suspicion that after years of languishing on the vine, we may see this movement to demand a balanced budget ripening fast - and possibly even being harvested - fertilized by the frustrations of all those voters who have been balancing their budgets again and again in terrible circumstances.

Call if you get a moment. Always happy to chat.


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

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Filed under: Letters to the President • Opinion • President Barack Obama • T1
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