President Obama will deliver his final State of the Union address tonight, reviewing his accomplishments and presenting what White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough described Sunday as a “big, optimistic, generous view of the future of America.”
Optimism about the country’s future, however, requires that elected officials take action to put the federal budget on a sustainable path. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Medicare and Social Security trustees, and others have warned that this should be done sooner rather than later.
Unfortunately, Washington has become complacent about our fiscal challenges, as evidenced by the approval of tax provisions last month that will raise deficits by an estimated $680 billion over the next 10 years.
Ideally, the President will remind Congress and the country tonight that the nation’s big fiscal challenges remain unresolved. As the economy recovered in recent years from the Great Recession, federal deficits have naturally declined. But we are still adding to the debt, and CBO projects that deficits will soon start to go up again. Major factors include an aging population, rising health costs and a dysfunctional tax system.
The next President will inherit these challenges. But tonight — and in the coming year — Obama can help set the stage for constructive action on them.
New Budget Infographics (CBO)
State of the Union Will Draw Election-Year Contrasts (Roll Call)
President to Focus on American Potential in 2016 (N.Y. Times)
Memorable Obama State of the Union Moments (Politico Video)