Amid a cratering stock market, huge job losses and continuing ad hoc bank interventions, President Obama is risking his presidency on the most ambitious remake of the federal government since Ronald Reagan, raising jitters among moderate Democrats and presenting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with the most daunting challenge of her career.
For liberals who fretted just a month ago that Obama was acting suspiciously centrist, his $3.6 trillion budget is a call to arms. It is also a carefully woven matrix that tackles everything from global warming to health care with new spending and taxes.
"It's a terribly ambitious agenda," said Robert Reischauer, president of the Urban Institute and former director of the Congressional Budget Office. "At 30,000 feet, covering the uninsured and moderating cost growth in health has near unanimous support, as does reducing greenhouse gases and dealing with climate change. But when pen is put to paper to specify how these goals are achieved, it inevitably involves redistributing resources and power."