In a recent “60 Minutes” interview, host Steve Kroft primed President Obama with this statement: “Most Americans think we’re spending too much money.”
To which Obama uttered a contemplative “Mm-hm.”
An understatement, indeed. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that federal spending will reach $3.56 trillion, or about 23 percent as a share of the economy, for fiscal year (FY) 2012—well above the historical average of 20.2 percent. That overspending, combined with temporarily low revenues as a result of the recession, has lead to consistent $1 trillion-plus deficits for the past four years.
Did the President address the spending question? No. Instead, he waited for the next question about the national debt, which has increased 50 percent since he took office. Then came the familiar litany of why he’s not responsible for Washington’s overspending or the country’s abysmal fiscal situation:
When I came into office, I inherited the biggest deficit in our history. And over the last four years, the deficit has gone up, but ninety percent of that is as a consequence of two wars that weren’t paid for, as a consequence of tax cuts that weren’t paid for, a prescription drug plan that was not paid for, and then the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Hold on. In FY 2007, well into the wars, and after the tax cuts and the prescription drug plan were passed, the deficit was $160.7 billion. By FY 2008, it had reached $458.6 billion. The deficit was increasing as Obama came into office, mainly driven by the recession. But his Administration’s massive stimulus bill—“emergency actions” as he calls it—exacerbated matters by sending spending into overdrive and led to a $1.4 trillion deficit for FY 2009.
And what good did these emergency actions do? Obama continues to embrace big government, tax hikes, and failed Keynesian stimulus spending policies—packaged as a “balanced approach”—while unemployment still sits above 8 percent and Taxmageddon’s threat suffocates job creation prospects.
Obama also dusted off a claim that The Heritage Foundation and others have put to rest: that under his Administration, the federal government has grown “at a slower pace than at any time since Dwight Eisenhower.”
That claim doesn’t account for the stimulus bill, which sent spending in 2009 to a record 25.2 percent of the economy. Total spending will slow in 2012 and over the next few years only because Republicans insisted on spending caps and cuts to accompany debt limit hikes in last year’s deal.
Further, Obama continues to ignore the looming entitlement program crisis. The Administration’s hollow words about reform are dwarfed by its push for tax hikes on job creators, even though we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Without reforms, entitlement programs will push spending to untenable levels and put undue pressure on vital areas of government such as national defense.
Mr. President, Americans have little patience for leaders who shirk responsibility and even less for those who fail to address the obvious—in this case, Washington’s spending addiction that is risking the American Dream for future generations. Yet, coming from a President who says not to worry right now about our $16 trillion debt, such inaction and abdication of responsibility come as no surprise.