President Obama’s Second Inaugural Address was devoid of memorable lines, but for me, two of them jumped out: “We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.”
Throughout his presidency, Obama has rhetorically wanted to establish himself as a transformational leader who was willing to tackle the nation’s tough problems, but when push came to shove, he has dodged them. This has been especially true than when it comes to dealing with the nation’s debt burden.
In his first inaugural speech four years ago, Obama condemned “our collective failure to make hard choices…” On February 23, 2009, just days after passing his $800 billion economic stimulus law, Obama hosted a “fiscal responsibility summit” at the White House in which he pledged, “to cut the deficit we inherited by half by the end of my first term in office.” He said, “this will not be easy. It will require us to make difficult decisions and face challenges we’ve long neglected. But I refuse to leave our children with a debt that they cannot repay, and that means taken responsibility right now, in this administration, for getting our spending under control.” He also emphasized, “In the coming years, we’ll be forced to make more tough choices, and do much more to address our long-term challenges.”
Yet the reality was much different. During his first term, Obama did little to restrain spending or make any sort of “tough choices” on deficits. His health care law did raise taxes and cut Medicare, but to finance a new entitlement slated to cost $1.7 trillion over the next decade. In 2010, Obama appointed a deficit reduction commission that was touted as a step toward dealing with the long-term debt problem, but in reality was merely a way of deflecting questions about deficits. ...
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