I was very interested in President Obama’s speech yesterday about our serious budget problems. Because I wanted to get an unfiltered understanding of his position, I read the speech in its entirety on the White House website, here. After I finished, I was left with a lot of questions. The biggest one was: “Who is this guy, and what does he truly believe?”
In the first part of the speech, the President talks about American history, the development of social programs, and how our deficit spending problems came about. Eventually, he describes the four parts of his plan. It really doesn’t have the kind of details you would expect to find in a concrete plan, however.
The first part of the plan deals with domestic spending. The President’s description of this part is found in a paragraph that reads:
“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. That step alone will save us about $750 billion over 12 years. We will make the tough cuts necessary to achieve these savings, including in programs that I care deeply about, but I will not sacrifice the core investments that we need to grow and create jobs. We will invest in medical research. We will invest in clean energy technology. We will invest in new roads and airports and broadband access. We will invest in education. We will invest in job training. We will do what we need to do to compete, and we will win the future.”
What are the “tough cuts”? Who knows? This paragraph says more about what the President wants to spend money on than its does about what he will cut. Seriously, in all of the thousands of programs administered by the federal government, couldn’t the President name at least one or two that he thinks could be sacrificed on the altar of fiscal responsibility? When our nation’s leader can’t even bring himself to name one specific cut, it doesn’t instill much confidence that cutting is really going to occur.
I’m sure some of my friends will respond that President Obama would be foolish to name particular programs, because it would be like a poker player tipping his hand. I disagree. Being President means leading, and it is time for President Obama to stop being cagey about his positions. If he wants Republicans to yield on some aspects of the budget debate — like reducing defense spending, for example — he needs to show where he will yield. He hasn’t done so.
This is one of the instances where I wonder about what President Obama really believes. At times during the campaign and during his presidency, he has talked about getting our fiscal house in order, bringing spending under control, and living within our means. Where is the evidence that he really believes what he has said? If the President’s big speech on a “plan” to deal with our crippling budget deficits fails to identify any actual spending reductions, I think it is fair to question whether the President really believes the platitudes found in his speeches.
I’ll have some more to say about other aspects of the President’s speech and four-part plan in later posts.