Obama's first 100 days will bring massive spending, experts say
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden during their first full day in office today. AP photo
During the campaign, President Barack Obama talked about using a scalpel to shape the federal budget, but he will spend his first 100 days in the White House wielding a nearly $1 trillion sledgehammer.
Obama will begin his tenure shepherding a massive economic stimulus bill through Congress and will then spend the money on everything from expanded health care to wind farms to aid for college tuition, experts say.
There may also be more bailouts, perhaps for the agricultural industry, said Steve Clemons, a director at the New America Foundation and a former Democratic strategist.
Hes going to essentially be like FDR was and nationalize significant parts of the economy, Clemons said. Youre going to see emergency edicts coming out of Washington every day.
Clemons, who said he is in regular contact with Obama officials, predicted a slew of new federal loan guarantees for homes, individuals and businesses and more money for unemployment benefits and the COBRA health insurance program.
That is in addition to an immediate $150 million for so-called shovel-ready infrastructure projects.Just today, Obama ordered a freeze on salaries on about 100 White House staffers making more than $100,000.
On the foreign policy front, Obama is going to continue a draw down of troops in Iraq that Clemons said has already begun. He will also seek to normalize relations with Syria in exchange for concessions, said Clemons.
The economic crisis might force some of Obamas priorities to the back-burner repealing the dont ask, dont tell policy in the military, for example but tucked into the stimulus bill will be other initiatives that might otherwise have been a hard sell, such as $87 billion in new Medicaid funding and $41 billion in additional school funding.
While there will be resistance, most expect the bill to pass with roughly $600 billion in new spending and $250 billion in tax cuts.
Michael Franc, vice president for government relations at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said Obama might also use the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases and widen eligibility for the Childrens Health Insurance Program.
Then theres the matter of the $350 billion left over from the last stimulus package, over which Obama has nearly unlimited discretion, said Jeffrey Kling, an economist at the Brookings Institute.
Between those two (stimulus bills), thats vastly more than most administrations accomplish in four years, he said.