It’s not hard to predict the notes President Obama will hit when he delivers his fifth State of the Union address on Tuesday. The president will call for more “investment” in pet priorities like alternative energy; he’ll insist on some form of “nation-building at home”; he’ll demand higher taxes from Americans; and so forth. You know the drill.
What you probably won’t hear is a clear plan for restraining federal spending to reduce deficits and the debt — even though recent polls show American taxpayers are deeply concerned about Washington spending.
In January, the highly respected Pew Research Center polled Americans about their top public policy concerns. Seventy-two percent said they wanted to see action on “reducing the budget deficit” (it was third on the list after “fix the economy” and “create jobs”).
Yet while the public grows increasingly anxious about government spending, President Obama has failed to offer clear leadership to bring down the trillion-dollar deficit and to bring the $16.4 trillion national debt under control.
One thing the president probably won’t boast about in his State of the Union address is how the national debt has ballooned by more than 50 percent since he took office. Unfortunately, the policies President Obama has pursued have left the economy gasping and wheezing.
Though the recession officially ended in June 2009, signs of recovery remain scarce. In the final quarter of 2012, the U.S. economy actually posted negative growth; meanwhile, the 7.9 percent unemployment rate is slightly higher than it was the day the president was inaugurated in January 2009. It’s unlikely the president will note these facts on Tuesday.
Granted, President Obama took office under unusual circumstances, with the nation in the midst of a deep recession. But he promised at the beginning of his term that the “emergency” measures he was taking would spark robust economic growth, drive down unemployment below 6 percent and cut the deficit in half. He delivered on none of those promises — yet he continues to spend with reckless abandon.
If you’re at all concerned about defense and our national security, then the nation’s fiscal picture should alarm you. It’s certainly alarming to Admiral Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has for the last three years warned that “the most significant threat to our national security is our debt.”
The president is no doubt aware of this fact, but he hasn’t been willing to focus on what’s needed to turn the tide on the federal government’s river of red ink. Instead, he calls for higher taxes on “the rich,” although he is certainly aware of the mathematical fact that there simply aren’t enough “rich” taxpayers to put a dent in a $16.4 trillion mountain of debt.