Budget realities

What's this? Finally some evidence of fiscal sanity in the Obama White House?

Check the planetary alignment.

Apparently realizing that the skyrocketing $1.5 trillion budget deficit could be a political albatross next year, the White House on Friday announced it might seek domestic spending cuts in 2010.

Federal agencies have been told to plan for a spending freeze or even cuts as deep as 5 percent, said Budget Director Peter Orszag. The plan would exempt the Pentagon and Veterans Affairs.

Has it dawned on the president and his economic advisers that hammering "the rich" isn't the budget-balancing panacea their progressive followers want to believe? Perhaps. But it's more likely Mr. Obama has made a political calculation.

"The percentage of people naming the deficit as a problem is pretty substantial," Andrew Kohut, a pollster and director of the Pew Research Center, told The Associated Press. "It may be approaching the level of concern we had in the early 1990s when Ross Perot rode that horse for quite some time politically."

Some Republicans might be inclined to dismiss the president's newfound fiscal responsibility as a cynical ploy -- he hasn't, after all, backed off any of his budget-busting, big government reforms. But a dismissive approach would be a mistake.

Instead, Republicans should embrace Mr. Obama's new budgeting mind-set and press him at every turn to deliver. Congressional Democrats have long bristled at being characterized as fiscally suicidal big spenders. But let's see how they react if the president actually follows through.