A (Gallup) study shows that only 35% of our independents now approve of the work our president is doing.
There are a variety of reasons for that. But here's the one that might be most troubling from Obama's view: Something like STAGFLATION is kicking in. Rapidly rising gas and fuel prices have pushed the the effective rate of inflation to about 6%. Meanwhile, economists say that we don't have "core inflation," because other prices and wages are basically not going up at all. So the spending power of the average American is dropping. Meanwhile, productivity numbers are disappointing. Can any of this be turned around by November, 2012? I have to admit I don't know.
We can also add there's a widespread skepticism that government can be the cure for what ails us these days, combined with the perception that the president spoke at length but didn't say much in his speech on the deficit. More and more "swing voters" are questioning the president's competence.
Good news for the president: Ryan's budget proposal is a big gamble for Republicans. In general, all entitlements in our country have been moving from DEFINED BENEFIT to DEFINED CONTRIBUTION. That is--the move, for example, from the pension to the 401k gives the individual more choice (that's good) but also sticks him or her with a lot more risk (that's bad). Ryan proposes to make that switch for MEDICARE. Given our DEMOGRAPHIC CRISIS (which I've discussed before), many responsible experts say there's no other way to make Medicare sustainable over the long term. But the change is still pretty scary for our aging population, and our president may be able to campaign effectively against the Ryan proposal.
The move from DEFINED BENEFIT to DEFINED CONTRIBUTION may be the only way to at least retard the implosion of our safety nets. It is part of a new birth of freedom understood as enhanced individual responsibility. But many or most Americans might not join THE TEA PARTIERS in regarding that move as change they can believe in.