Happy State of the Union day!
Like a pep rally without the jerseys and bonfire, the president will hope to rouse his followers and infuriate the opposition while faithful on both ends hit the bars to yell at the TV. But Bankrupting America — a project of the fiscally conservative, non-partisan group Public Notice — released a video on Friday pointing to another State of the Union tradition, one more important and far less fun: The annual practice of promising action on a burgeoning national debt, coupled with the daily practice of failing to make the hard choices required to solve it. (RELATED: State of the Union address on 1,000th day since Senate Dems passed a budget)
The video chronicles that tradition, establishing urgency with its opening line: “Another year. Another speech. Rhetoric. Plans. Promises. And now a country on the verge of bankruptcy.” (RELATED: Ad campaign: ‘Washington could learn a lot from veterans’)
Beginning with President Ronald Reagan’s first State of the Union in 1981, the Gipper’s voice is heard warning, “Our national debt is approaching $1 trillion. A few weeks ago I called such a figure – a trillion dollars – incomprehensible.”
Fast-forward two years, and Regan is heard announcing, “I will recommend a federal spending freeze.”
The video then moves on to 1989, where President George H.W. Bush is heard in his first State of the Union address, pledging, “To work day and night, if that’s what it takes, to meet budget targets and to produce a budget on time.”
The video hops next to his successor, President Bill Clinton, also making promises on the deficit, saying in his first State of the Union in 1993 that “in the end we have to get back to the deficit. For years there has been a lot of talk about it but very few credible efforts to deal with it.”
At the beginning of his first term, President George W. Bush continued the tradition: “Many of you have talked about the need to pay down our national debt. I listened and I agree.”
And in 2010, the video continues, President Barack Obama said, “We are prepared to freeze government spending for three years,” adding one year later a proposal “that, starting this year, we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years.”
Today, the video states, the national debt is $15 trillion — that’s 15 times the figure President Reagan called “incomprehensible” 30 years prior.
“Stop the rhetoric,” it concludes. “Stop the empty promises. Cut the spending. It’s time to act. Stop pushing America to the verge of bankruptcy.”