Despite everyone's expectations, getting President Obama and the new Republican majority in the House to work together shouldn't really be that difficult. At least it shouldn't be difficult if both sides just keep their campaign promises.
In his election night remarks, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), the leader of the new House Republican majority, promised: "[The Republican agenda] starts with cutting spending instead of increasing it. Reducing the size of government instead of expanding it." Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made the same pledge.
Despite the 21.4 percent increase in federal spending during the first two years of his presidency (and that is even excluding spending on TARP, bailouts for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and deposit insurance), Obama repeatedly made this same promise during the 2008 campaign. And what I've proposed, you'll hear Senator McCain say, well, [I'm] proposing a whole bunch of new spending, but actually I'm cutting more than I'm spending so that it will be a net spending cut," that promise was made during the second presidential debate against John McCain. As if that wasn't clear enough, he repeated his commitment to reduce spending in his third debate: "Now, what I've done throughout this campaign is to propose a net spending cut." In the first presidential debate, Mr. Obama attacked Republicans for an "orgy of spending and enormous deficits," promising that he was actually going to eliminate the deficit by reducing spending.
But rather than dwell on broken promises, the huge increase in government spending during the last two years should actually make reducing government spending, at least from its current levels, very easy. After all, Mr. Obama promised to cut government spending from the 2008 levels of $2.9 trillion, not the over $3.8 trillion that President Obama wants to spend during the current 2011 fiscal year.
The $3.8 trillion dwarfs anything people planned on spending in 2011 just a few years ago, and it is even after the costly stimulus programs have run their course. In March 2008, President Bush anticipated the Federal government spending $3.17 trillion in 2011. President Bush was already spending too much money, but there is no justification for adding over another $600 billion to the total.
During the campaign President Obama blamed the country's economic problems on the "enormous" deficits during the Bush administration. Yet, compared to the $1.4 and $1.3 trillion deficits that we have run the last two years, the $160 billion deficit during the last year that Republicans controlled both congress and the presidency seems rather quaint. During the presidential debates, President Obama attacked President Bush for running a "half-a-trillion-dollar deficit" after the federal bailout bill was passed in 2008.
Unfortunately, at his press conference on Wednesday, Obama just didn't seem to have his heart into cutting the deficit. He couldn't even admit that that the $814 billion stimulus, his supplemental government spending bills, or the various "jobs" bills have added to the deficit: "We already had a big deficit that I inherited, and that has been made worse because of the recession. As we bring it down, I want to make sure that we’re not cutting into education that is going to help define whether or not we can compete around the world. I don’t think we should be cutting back on research and development . . . ."
But so far his plans to "bring it down" have not been very promising. If President Obama wins re-election, his budget projects a deficit during his last year of his second term of over $1 trillion.
The economy and the Democratic party would be in much better shape today if President Obama had done what he continually promised and cut government spending. Future generations of Americans also wouldn't be burdened with the record $2.7 trillion in debt created during the first two years of his presidency and the nearly $10 trillion more that he has planned over the next ten years.
Fortunately, Mr. Boehner and the new Republican majority in congress are committed to doing what the president originally campaigned on. If President Obama doesn't like the particular cuts that Republicans are proposing, he should finally propose some cuts of his own.
John R. Lott, Jr. is a FOXNews.com contributor. He is an economist and author of the recently revised third edition of More Guns, Less Crime (University of Chicago Press, 2010).