Obama’s Criticized, Budget Sequestration Amid Deadlocked Congress

Nearly two months into a second term marked by major federal spending cuts and Congress’ continued inability to work together, public polls show that less than half of Americans approve of the job Barack Obama is doing as president.

A recent Reuters poll shows that Obama’s approval rating has dropped to 43 percent.

Beginning March 1, after months of failed negotiations between Congressional leaders, the automatic $85 billion spending cuts known as budget sequestration took effect, slashing federal defense spending and aid to some social programs.

The spending cuts were postponed on the first day of the New Year after last-minute legislation to “avoid” the fiscal cliff, or mandatory spending cuts aimed at reducing the national deficit. Since then, Congress has been unable to reach a compromise over whether to increase taxes or decrease federal spending.

Economics professor Luc Noiset said he approves of the job Obama is doing as president but thinks the president should do more to encourage negotiations between Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill.

“Congress’ inability to work together is our main problem,” Noiset said. “It’s the president’s job to bring the two sides together and get them to compromise.”

Noiset said he thinks a combination of spending cuts and tax increases is necessary to generate more revenue for the government.

“On the tax side, the government is getting less tax revenue as a share of GDP than it has historically,” Noiset said. “The government needs more tax revenue and that has to come from somewhere.”

Political science professor Andrew Pieper says taxes still need to go up.

“Some argue that the tax burden is hindering business,” Pieper said. “But the 1990s were a pretty good decade for economic growth and we had higher taxes then.”

Pieper said he supports a combination of spending cuts and tax increases but believes we should spend more on things like infrastructure, education, and social safety net spending.

“The most important thing is to note that Republicans don’t really seem interested in negotiating,” he said. “I think they need to put tax increases on the table and President Obama needs to be willing to cut some entitlement spending.”

Pieper said that neither Democrats nor Republicans seem interested in cutting funding to Social Security and Medicare, which, aside from very low revenues, are the major long-term budget issues.

Economics professor Don Sabbarese says the fiscal deficit and federal debt levels are unsustainable and must be addressed.

“This can’t be done without addressing the entitlement problems of Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid,” Sabbarese said. “Increased revenue from higher taxes cannot correct these problems.”

He said that instead of higher taxes, what we need is major tax reform.

“This includes overall lower tax rates and the removal of tax subsidies and other tax deductibles for consumers and businesses. This can be done on a revenue-neutral basis and in the long run, increase overall tax revenue through more economic growth and a broader tax base.”

Sabbarese said the recent immigration compromise proposed by a group of Democratic and Republican senators offers some hope that legislators can work together.

“If the House and the Senate can follow a similar process for other issues,” he said, “they may be able to address some of the pressing problems facing our country.”

Sabbarese said when it comes to macroeconomic policies there are many economic forces that ultimately determine growth, but in the end, “the government’s best policy is to create the best environment that allows the private sector to grow.”

Kenneth White, a professor of political science and criminal justice, says he thinks Obama is doing okay, but not as well as he could, as he “has not proven to be a savvy negotiator.”

“I think Obama has come very late to the realization that the GOP does not want to work with him,” White said. “Thus, he’s moving more towards the use of executive orders. I think that is why you saw him issue executive orders on gun control, because he knows that President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Organizing for Action dinner in Washington, D.C., on March 13, 2013.

photo courtesy of MCT legislative action is unlikely.” Obama has been met with criticism from the media and certain members of Congress for his support of the military’s use of drones, or unmanned aircrafts to eliminate “enemy combatants” overseas.

“Obama has, in my opinion, violated the Constitution with his use of drones to kill people without due process,”White said. “Obama has been very disappointing when it comes to war powers and civil liberties. The basic principle of checks and balances means that the president cannot act without oversight. His drone program attempts to do just that.”

The economy has shown signs of improvement in recent months and according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate has dropped to 7.7 percent, the lowest it has been since the recession began in late 2008.