We aren’t having this debate, and President Obama is mainly to blame. His recent budget speech at George Washington University was a telling model of evasion, contradiction and deception. He warned that by 2025 present tax levels would suffice only to pay for “Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the interest we owe on our debt. … Every other national priority — education, transportation, even our national security — will (be paid) with borrowed money.” He noted that businesses may not invest in a country that seems “unable to balance its books.”
Fine. But Obama has no plan to balance the budget — ever. He asserted “every kind of spending (is) on the table.” But every kind of spending is not on the table. He virtually ruled out cutting Social Security, the government’s biggest program (2011 spending: $727 billion). For example, Social Security is excluded from a proposed “trigger” that would automatically reduce spending and raise taxes if certain deficit targets weren’t met. He also put Medicare (2011 spending: $572 billion) largely off-limits.
The president keeps promoting an “adult conversation” about the budget, but that can’t happen if the First Adult doesn’t play his part. Obama is eager to be all things to all people. He’s against the debt and its adverse consequences, but he’s for preserving Social Security and Medicare without major changes. He’s for “tough cuts,” but he’s against saying what they are and defending them. He pronounces ambitious goals without saying how they’d be reached. Mainly, he’s for scoring political points against Republicans.