H ow can we win the future with the same old Obama plan?
By David H. Landon
President Obama hoped to deliver a State of the Union address last week that would lay the groundwork for his legislative agenda for the next two years. Despite all of the trimmings, bells and whistles, his speech needed to address only one issue that is driving the public debate. How are we going to reign in government spending to sustainable levels? He failed miserably to address this issue, which is central to ending this recession and maintaining our way of life.
In the one-hour speech to a joint session of Congress, he laboriously tried to convince the American people that his first two years had been a roaring success, and although there was still work to be done, Americans were people who do “big things.” We simply had to find the right combination of new “investments” to finish the job. Evidently, growing the national debt to $14 trillion is an example of one of those “big things” that he thinks the American people do. Unfortunately, the president has not been listening to the American people.
After listening to the speech, it becomes increasingly difficult to take Barack Obama seriously. He acts like he understands the need to reign in government spending. He acts like he is willing to listen to ideas of Republican and conservative Democrats for more spending restraint. He acts like he understands that Democrats got their hats handed to them last November because of voter anger about runaway government spending. But then he demonstrates that he either isn’t really listening or that he doesn’t care what the American people want.
His bold proposal for spending cuts is to freeze federal domestic spending for the next five years. This will save about $400 billion over the next decade. Wow! Maybe the prez does get it! But wait … not so fast. He wants to freeze domestic spending at 2010 levels. That’s after the Democrats rammed through their 2009 omnibus spending bill. Since 2009, the federal government has been spending money, in many instances throwing away tax dollars, at a rate that is 22% higher than when he took office. A freeze at 2010 spending levels is merely a gesture, not a serious policy change. It would apply to only approximately 17% of the budget, and these programs have already had a 22% increase in their annual appropriations in the past two years, not to mention another 25% increase when the stimulus spending is added in. Sorry Mr. President, it will take more than gestures to solve our financial problems.
Nor by his remarks does he appear to be heeding the warnings of CBO’s Director Doug Elmendorf, who reported to Obama’s deficit commission that action must be taken immediately to shrink the size of the deficit before the U.S. reaches a “tipping point” similar to that of Greece and Ireland. I don’t know how you interpret what Elmendorf meant by “immediately,” but I think it means “holy crap … the time to act is now!” In fact, the president seems determined to double-down on his Keynesian game plan to spend our way out of this damned recession. In his speech he proposed the following “investments.” He proposes to extend access to 80 percent of Americans to high-speed rail with 25 years. He would also add 100,000 teachers of science, engineering and mathematics within 10 years; make permanent a $10,000 tuition tax credit; replace education’s No Child Left Behind Act; increase research and development spending; provide high-speed wireless access to 98 percent of Americans in five years; and put 1 million advanced-technology vehicles on roads by 2015. Some of these might be wonderful programs if we had the money to pay for them.
But at the present time we do not. For context, the $400 billion Obama says he’d
save over the next decade, presuming his freeze goes into effect, amounts to one-third of the budget deficit for 2010 alone. Compare that to the Congressional Republicans who want to see deep cuts in the budget, as demonstrated by a GOP proposal last week to slash $2.5 trillion over the next decade and a proposal Tuesday from Sen. Rand Paul to cut $500 billion in one year. These are serious kinds of proposals that our precarious fiscal house needs.
President Obama’s multi-trillion-dollar budget will be submitted to Congress on February 14. It will show a continuing affinity between federal government and spending. The battle over the budget will be the continuing story of this Congress. Will fiscal conservatives have the ability to carry the day and end this madness of uncontrolled growth in federal spending and of deficits for as far into the next generation as we can see? Or will the congressional spenders continue the ruinous policies that the two-year, former Senator from Illinois has brought upon us?
David H. Landon is the former Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party Central Committee. He has been involved in over 40 local campaigns, in addition to serving as county campaign manager on several statewide and one congressional campaign. In 2000, he was co-chairman of the Montgomery County Bush campaign.