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Money Week Begins; White House Careful; the “Dave” President?

This week is money week. Today, a summit on fiscal responsibility here at the White House. Tomorrow, Obama addresses a joint session of Congress to outline his budget and make the rhetorical case. Thursday, Obama’s Tuesday night rhetoric is revealed in detail.

In addition, the main topic of conversation amid roiling markets is bank “nationalization,” a word evocative of South American dictatorships that the White House is wary enough about to insist – as repeated today – that Obama wants a privately held banking system regulated by government.

And repeated again – Obama wants “a privately held banking system regulated by government.”

“Why can’t you just say, we are not going to nationalize the banking system?”

Obama believes “a privately held banking system regulated by government” is the best plan.

It’s a minefield out there.

OK, if we can’t get an answer on that, how about this. At the fiscal responsibility summit, Obama said, “Today I’m pledging to cut the deficit we inherited in half by the end of my first term in office.” But doesn’t that work against the stimulus, which involved increased spending and lowered taxes?

Answer: wait for Thursday, when all will be revealed.

In his East Room remarks at the fiscal responsibility summit, Obama pledged that one way he’d make the budget workable is going through line by line and eliminating programs deemed wasteful. Apropos of last night’s Oscars, Obama’s rhetoric in his sumit remarks was reminiscent of the movie “Dave,” starring Kevin Kline as a lookalike who becomes the president (think “Moon Over Parador,” set in America… and Parador probably had nationalized banks). Kline brings in his buddy Charles Grodin to cut inefficient, wasteful programs from the federal budget, so that Kline can then afford a program that will enable him to sleep with Sigourney Weaver.

Obama cited the training programs, conferences and travel at the Department of Agriculture, payments to agribusiness “that don’t need them,” no-bid Iraq contracts, ending TBFCSJO (tax breaks for companies shipping jobs overseas), and fraud and abuse in Medicare. Budget Director Peter Orszag is the Charles Grodin character in this scenario.

(I‘m not sure who Sigourney Weaver would be… Michelle, Chuck Todd, the actual Sigourney Weaver, or the American people – awww!)

Will that be enough? Probably not, and perhaps if for no other reason than Obama will inherit a budget full of thousands of earmarks already established by previous budgets, with Congress heavily involved in protecting its turf, and no line-item veto in a president’s pocket. In addition, Obama said today that what happens this week is just the beginning, calling the rising cost of health care “the single most pressing fiscal challenge we face by far,” and citing “the long-term solvency of Social Security” as the major forces that will require “tough choices.”

When pushed back on how the president can possibly make all of these things a simultaneous priority, the answer came again – wait for Thursday.

In other news, Gibbs said that an executive order on stem cells should be expected within weeks.

Finally, word out of the administration tonight is that former Washington Governor Gary Locke is the next Commerce Secretary nominee.


EDIT: I feel a little stupefied by consensus that this was an “angry” post (if anything, it felt more playful than most with the movie comments). To be clearer, the White House is being pressured on the issue of bank nationalization, I was characterizing the pressure and the careful replies, every word being carefully scrutinized, the markets reacting to the words, the White House is trying to use every last bit of time it can. That seemed to be the main story of the day. I regret the lack of clarity.