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Right Turn
Posted at 10:15 AM ET, 04/06/2012

Obama isn’t serious about the debt

President Obama did not want to be president to reduce our debt or project American power and influence abroad. And despite the challenges the times have presented, he has, whenever possible and often when unwise, avoided doing both.

On the international front, he’s apparently content to let Russia run the show in Syria. He shrugged his shoulders at the Green Movement, forced a total pullout of troops from Iraq with predictable results and shrunk from defending human rights and democracy promotion in a variety of despotic settings.

On the debt, it’s hard to believe he takes the potential for a fiscal crisis seriously. As Bloomberg reports:

President Barack Obama has rebuked Republicans for their “radical vision” of a scaled-down government and says it’s time to “get serious about the deficit.” His own budget fails to do that over the long term.
White House projections show federal debt as a proportion of gross domestic product growing by more than three-quarters under Obama’s plan to a record 124 percent in 2050, well above the 90 percent danger zone identified by economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff. And the government’s share of the economy climbs to levels not seen since World War II, largely because of surging spending on health care.

Liberals resist the accusation that Obama has done nothing to manage our long-term fiscal problem. The facts say otherwise:

In the short term, Obama brings down the deficit to manageable levels while stabilizing publicly held debt at about 76 percent of GDP in 2022, the Congressional Budget Office said in a report last month. To do that, the president raises taxes on households making $250,000 or more while cutting spending on defense and other “discretionary” programs, or those whose budgets Congress sets each year.
It’s beyond the 10-year budget window that the troubles begin to pile up. The growing ranks of retired baby boomers -- the approximately 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 -- and the rise in health-care costs will drive government outlays, the deficits and debt higher.
As a share of GDP, federal spending increases to 27 percent in 2050 and keeps on rising, according to projections by the White House Office of Management and Budget. That would be up from 24 percent in 2011 and would be the highest level since 1945, when the military build-up during World War II pushed it to 42 percent.
The president’s proposal “is not a long-term solution to our problem,” said former Congressional Budget Office Director Robert Reischauer. “It gets us through what he hopes is his second term, but it doesn’t do much for the second term of his successor.”

The lack of seriousness on the left about the debt is apparent. If you’re going to claim that robots will bring down health costs in the future (has the advancement of medical technology made health care more or les expensive?), you might as well believe, as James Pethokoukis wisecracks, that “low-cost nanobots roaming in our bloodstream will immediately heal us from all injury and disease. Everyone an X-Man.” This thinking is not that of a party or president that believes we must actually bend the cost curve downward. Isn't there an infinite supply of tax revenue from the “rich” to keep the government afloat?

Obama didn’t rise through the ranks of elite universities, become the darling of the left in the Senate and run against the third wave Clinton vision to spend money on national defense, recognize America should proactively promote our values in the world or cut the debt. So he hasn’t and he won’t, despite whatever “flexibility” he would obtain by virtue of reelection. He wanted to be president to expand the social welfare state and practice “social justice” by income redistribution (“I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness”). That is what he has pursued, and it’s ridiculous to assume he’d let up in a second term.

By  |  10:15 AM ET, 04/06/2012

Categories:  2012 campaign, Budget, President Obama

 
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