President Obama’s State of the Union address raised questions about his willingness to take the lead in focusing public attention on the heavy sacrifices that will be required to rein in future deficits.
While he talked about the importance of fiscal responsibility in general terms, much of the speech last week promised additional spending and tax cuts to bolster the economic recovery.
Trillion-dollar deficits, however, are projected even after the economy fully recovers, a problem that his bipartisan fiscal commission tried to address with its recent recommendations.
It was disappointing that the President did not use more of his speech to discuss these recommendations and the tough policy choices they will require. He proposed $478 billion in discretionary spending cuts but the savings would not even cover anticipated interest on the federal debt ($5.4 trillion) over 10 years.
“We do big things,” Obama reminded the country. Unfortunately, one of the biggest things we’ve done in the last decade is build up a $14 trillion federal debt. The President must lead the effort to change course; otherwise it simply won't get done.
The Republican response, from House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, called for spending restraint while acknowledging that his party shared some of the responsibility for that debt.