When Barack Obama gave a much-anticipated speech on the budget and deficit spending last week, it turned into a disappointing mix of ambiguities and demagoguery. Most people couldn’t discern any “plan” at all in the speech, only hazy promises with few specifics. As it turns out, Obama himself doesn’t appear to be aware of even those few specifics he did offer. In yesterday’s Facebook townhall event, Obama not only mischaracterized the scope of the Republican plan to cut deficits, he also mischaracterized his own:
“In the short term, Democrats and Republicans now agree we’ve got to reduce the debt by about $4 trillion over the next 10 years. And I know that sounds like a lot of money — it is. But it’s doable if we do it in a balanced way.”
That’s actually wrong on three counts. First, Obama’s plan doesn’t reduce the national debt at all. It reduces by $4 trillion dollars the amount that Obama originally promised to add to the debt through deficit spending in his earlier budget projections. Obama’s plan adds at least $7 trillion to the national debt by its end, with projections rapidly increasing thereafter. Secondly, Republicans have a plan to cut deficit spending — not debt in the short term — by over $6 trillion, using the far less rosy baseline figures of the CBO over the Pollyannaish predictions of growth coming from the OMB.
And thirdly, Obama promised a twelve-year plan, not a 10-year plan, a point he made repeatedly in last week’s speech:
Today, I’m proposing a more balanced approach to achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction over twelve years. …
The first step in our approach is to keep annual domestic spending low by building on the savings that both parties agreed to last week – a step that will save us about $750 billion over twelve years. …
This is my approach to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next twelve years. It’s an approach that achieves about $2 trillion in spending cuts across the budget.
It’s bad enough to have a President who confuses debt and deficit. It’s worse to have a President who can’t keep his own plan scope straight.
Speaking of the 12-year scope, even Democratic Senator Kent Conrad is somewhat mystified by that approach:
Last week, President Obama introduced his own framework for reducing the deficit by $4 trillion over 12 years, a proposed measure relying heavily on cuts in military and domestic spending and raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
Conrad told ABC News he had never heard of a 12-year plan.
“I really don’t know the motivation. One thing I’ve learned around here is I don’t know people’s motivations. I just try to pay attention to what they do. And 12 years, it’s an interesting concept,” Conrad said.
Interesting? It doesn’t appear to have interested even the man who proposed it.