Obama's Whole Lotta Nothing
That was then; this is now: Now America is facing a sovereign debt crisis caused by excessive government borrowing and spending, exacerbated by a recession and by actuary-confirmed, financially unsustainable commitments to entitlements.
The failure of government to budget and spend responsibly isn't a Democratic or Republican issue. American politicians have taxed, borrowed and spent far too much money. It's irrational and purely ideological for progressives who support Obama to use what they see as Bush administration shortcomings to excuse or defend even greater excesses by the current president and his Democratic congressional allies.
America is about to reach a debt ceiling with an administration-applied deadline of August 2. The president says there will be "fiscal Armageddon" if Congress doesn't act to raise the debt limit. So, with the clock ticking down, what is the president's plan to reduce spending? He has proposed...nothing.
Regardless, on July 19, 2011, House Republicans gave the president the debt ceiling increase and political cover he wanted. As part of a "Cut, Cap, and Balance" bill (CCB), the House authorized raising the debt limit by the $2.5 trillion Obama requested to see him through the 2012 election. Enacted in the absence of administration leadership, CCB has some modest strings attached.
The new debt ceiling would only be effective if a two-thirds majority in both Houses of Congress passes a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution and sends it to the states for eventual ratification or rejection. CCB also calls for a minimal $111 billion in spending cuts in FY2012, only $1.5 trillion in cuts over the next ten years, and firm caps on federal spending at roughly 19 percent of GDP by 2020. The $1.5 trillion in cuts over the remainder of the decade is less than the government will borrow this year.
The CCB bill punts on entitlements, proposing no immediate changes to our largest fiscal problems: Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. CCB is a major concession by House Republicans, especially by those sent to Washington following the grassroots-influenced wave election of 2010. President Obama has vowed to veto the bill if it passes the Senate. Obama's alternative to CCB is...nothing.
Obama has given speeches and held press conferences to declare his willingness to "make difficult choices," but he has never enumerated a single compromise, reform or "difficult choice." Obama has committed...nothing.
In a recent press conference, Obama was asked what Medicare reforms he'd accept. He responded, "There's lots of options on the table," but refused to be more specific. Obama answered...nothing.
A FY-2012 budget was passed by the Republican House of Representatives. The president has rejected it, but, as an alternative, he has offered...nothing.
To be fair, the president did deliver a rambling, detail-free "budget" speech in May on which Douglas Elmendorf, the Democrat who is director of the Congressional Budget Office, commented, "We don't score speeches." Translation: "The president offered...nothing."
It's true that earlier Republican majorities failed to act, but the Democratic Party which held the White House and majorities in both Houses of Congress from January 2009-January 2011 (and which still controls the Senate and White House) has failed monumentally. Not only have Washington Democrats increased the debt by more than $5 billion in three years, they haven't produced a budget in more than two years. Though they have paid lip service to deficit reduction, other than tax increases, Democrats have offered...nothing.
National politicians have ensured that every child born here today is already nearly $50,000 in debt, money that must be taken from wages none will begin earning for two decades or more -- debt that increases and compounds relentlessly. Absent constitutional requirements to balance budgets or fix spending caps, our system doesn't self-correct. If it must rely on politicians to correct the problems they caused, America may be doomed.
It has become very clear. The president has nothing to offer that will make him or his party fiscally responsible or our nation financially sound. President Obama and his liberal enablers in the Democratic Party, unions, the media and the academy only want to borrow and spend more, and they want tax hikes to pay for new spending and debt service.
But, in March, 2006, during Bush 43's second term, speaking from the floor of the US Senate, then-Senator Obama said:
The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government cannot pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies. Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that, "the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.
Senator Obama's statement is more true now than it was then.
Jerry Shenk is co-editor of the Rebuilding America, Federalist Papers 2 website©: www.federalistpapers2.org.