Poll Numbers, Credit Rating Complicate President Obama’s Mission on Deficit

BY Terence Burlij  April 19, 2011 at 8:31 AM EDT

President Obama; photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama poses with the Air Force Academy football team during the Commander in Chief’s Trophy presentation Monday at the White House. Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

It’s days like Tuesday when President Obama might be thinking, “Can’t the leader of the free world catch a break?”

On a day when he’s scheduled to hold the first of a series of town halls to sell his vision for bringing down the deficit, the president is greeted Tuesday morning by a Washington Post-ABC News poll that shows 57 percent of Americans disapprove of his handling of the economy and fresh headlines about the dangers of the country’s debt.

Despite recent signs of growth, such as an improving jobs picture, the Post-ABC poll finds that Americans are not overly optimistic about the U.S. economy, with 44 percent of respondents saying they see it getting worse. Much of that concern appears to be driven by rising costs, most notably for gasoline, with more than seven in 10 saying the surge in fuel prices has caused financial difficulty at home.

The poll numbers come on top of Monday’s decision by Standard & Poor’s to cut the U.S. credit outlook from “stable” to “negative” based on the uncertainty of lawmakers being able to reach an agreement to address “medium- and long-term budgetary challenges by 2013.”

S&P said there’s a 1-in-3 chance the country’s AAA credit rating might be downgraded in the future. That high rating helps the country borrow at extremely low rates to help finance government operations.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday the administration was confident about the prospects for a deal on a long-term budget. “We think the political process will outperform S&P expectations,” Carney said.

Carney pointed to the fact that the president has proposed $4 trillion in deficit reductions over 12 years, while the Republican plan authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would cut the deficit by $4.4 trillion over 10 years. While the numbers may not seem that far apart, the two sides arrive at them in very different ways.

The president would cut spending but also wants to raise taxes on wealthy Americans and eliminate tax breaks for some corporations. Rep. Ryan’s plan reduces spending more than the one offered by the president, but it also lowers the top tax rate on individuals and extends all the tax breaks first enacted under President George W. Bush, including those for high wage earners.

That’s the debate the president wanted to have this week — not whether the U.S. credit rating is in danger. So, look for President Obama to touch lightly — if at all — on the S&P news and much more on the differences between his vision for the long-term budget and that of Rep. Ryan.

The president’s town hall at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale is scheduled for 10:15 a.m. EDT Tuesday.

VETOED

Arizona will not be the first state in the union to pass a law that requires presidential candidates to prove their U.S. citizenship after Republican Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the state legislature’s “birther” bill Monday.

“I never imagined being presented with a bill that could require candidates for president of the greatest and most powerful nation on Earth to submit their ‘early baptismal circumcision certificates’ among other records to the Arizona secretary of state,” Gov. Brewer said, according to the Associated Press. “This is a bridge too far.”

The bill is a proxy fight for opponents of President Obama who claim he hasn’t proven that he was born in Hawaii. Many media organizations have shown that President Obama has presented a valid birth certificate from Hawaii, but the criticism remains.

According to the AP, the vetoed bill would have required candidates to provide affidavits that state their age and citizenship, in addition to a birth certificate and sworn statement as to where they have lived for the past 14 years. Other documents, including a circumcision certificate, could be used instead of a birth certificate.

Arizona sparked a national debate over immigration policy last year when it passed Senate Bill 1070, which gave Arizona law enforcement the power to determine someone’s immigration status and enforce federal immigration law.

TAX DAY

President and Michelle Obama released their tax returns Monday, reporting $1,728,096 in income, down from $5.5 million in 2009, the New York Times reports.

Most of their income comes from the president’s books and is supplemented by his $400,000 salary. They donated 14.2 percent of their income, $245,075, to charity and paid $453,770 in federal taxes — approximately 26 percent of their income.

Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill’s income was $379,178, and they paid $86,626 in federal taxes.

For comparison, President George W. Bush and his wife Laura earned $719,274 in 2007 and paid $221,635 in federal taxes.

For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.