As Obama continues to slide in the polls—the Rasmussen daily tracking poll today shows his Approval Index reaching another all-time low—he's being forced to move to the political center. This is very good news for the economy and the markets. Larry Kudlow recently noted Obama's embrace of the virtues of tax cuts here: "Is Obama Going Supply-Side?" Peggy Noonan has an excellent article in today's WSJ which explains the extent of Obama's political shift: "Obama Moves Toward Center Stage." Excerpts:
The political headline this week is that President Obama appears to be attempting to move toward the center, or what he believes is the center. We saw the big pivot in two major speeches, one on the economy and the other, in Oslo, on peace.
If it is real, ... it tells us White House internal polling is probably worse than the public polls. It tells us the mounting criticism from Republicans, conservatives and others has had a real effect. It tells us White House officials have concluded they were out on a cliff.
The economic speech took place Tuesday at the Brookings Institute, the generally left-leaning think tank in Washington. The president put unusual emphasis on—and showed unusual sympathy for—Americans in business, specifically small businesses. "Over the past 15 years, small businesses have created roughly 65% of all new jobs in America," he said. "These are companies formed around kitchen tables in family meetings, formed when an entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream, formed when a worker decides it's time she became her own boss." This is how Republicans, moderates and centrists think, and talk.
The president claimed success in reducing taxes—"This fall, I signed into law more than $30 billion in tax cuts for struggling businesses"—and announced a new cut: "We're proposing a complete elimination of capital gains taxes on small business investment along with an extension of write-offs to encourage small businesses to expand in the coming year." He called it "worthwhile" to create a new "tax incentive to encourage small businesses to add and keep employees."
All this was striking, and seemed an implicit concession that tax levels affect economic activity. It was as if he were waving his arms and saying, "Hey taxpayer, I'm not your enemy!" The only reason a president would find it necessary to deliver such a message is if he just found out taxpayers do think he's the enemy. The emphasis on what it takes to start and build a business, seemed if nothing else, a bowing to reality. And if you're going to bow to something, it might as well be reality.
Thursday, at his Nobel laureate speech in Oslo, the president used an audience of European leftists to place himself smack-dab in the American center. He said, essentially: War is bad but sometimes justified, America is good, and I am an American. He spoke of Afghanistan as "a conflict that America did not seek; one in which we are joined by 43 other countries—including Norway—in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks." Adroit, that "including Norway." He said he had "an acute sense of the cost of armed conflict" and suggested America's efforts in Afghanistan fit the criterion of the concept of a "just war." It continues to be of great value that a modern, left-leaning American president speaks in this way to the world. "The world" didn't seem to enjoy it, and burst into applause a resounding once.