Two Reasons to be Optimistic

The chart below reflects the public mood about government spending over the past half century. The higher the line on the chart, the more the public wants government to spend. (The chart is the work of James Stimson, a public opinion expert at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill).

The public has become more favorable toward public spending since 2001. However, it is likely that Obama’s election will coincide with a peak in this trend. Both LBJ’s election in 1964 and Clinton’s in 1992 marked such peaks. In Obama’s case, however, the peak will be substantially lower than in the Johnson and Clinton cases. Note also that those earlier peaks were followed immediately by declining support for more spending.

If history is any guide, Obama will not have as much public support for more spending as Clinton or LBJ and such support as he has will begin to decline almost immediately after he takes power.