State of the Union: Enough Speeches - Spending, Debt at Heart of Troubles

“We shouldn't just give our people a government that's more affordable. We should give them a government that's more competent and efficient. We cannot win the future with a government of the past.”—President Obama, 2011 State of the Union Address, January 25, 2011

It has been 12 months since President Obama spoke those words before Congress and the nation. One year later, are we any closer to a government that is affordable, competent or efficient?

Unfortunately, the evidence clearly shows we are further away from that goal than ever.  And while the president will do everything he can to lay the blame on for our nation’s woes on Congress, the fact is, he can only blame himself.

After all, the newly inaugurated President Obama insisted in 2009 on an $800 billion economic “stimulus” package to counteract the economic downturn.  Here we are three years later, with unemployment still at an unacceptably high 8.5 percent—almost a full percentage point higher than when the president took office—and an economy where the unemployment rate doesn’t even reflect people who have given up hope of finding work.  The President’s decision last week to block construction of the Keystone Pipeline, which would have created tens of thousands of American jobs highlights how out of touch he is when it comes to job creation.

It is President Obama who continues to usher in an explosion of debt, with the nation now more than $15 trillion in the hole. Indeed, President Obama amassed more than $4 trillion of that total in his first three years in office.

On this president’s watch, credit agencies downgraded the nation’s credit rating for the first time in history, a vote of “no confidence” in the nation’s ability to get its financial house in order. Amassing this kind of debt can lead us dangerously close to the brink of economic collapse, as the people of Greece and other European nations are quickly learning.

What has President Obama offered as a balm for these pains? More spending.  More taxes.  More regulation.  More blame-shifting and attempts to score political points.  More campaign rhetoric.   In summary: more of the same.

When President Obama stands before Congress on January 24 to deliver his fourth State of the Union address, we can expect he will lay out an ambitious agenda for the next year of his presidency.

But can we trust the president to follow through on the numerous lofty promises he will undoubtedly make in his speech?

If President Obama spent less time envisioning himself as a transformational leader, and more time focused on doing the job of a chief executive, he might make some progress toward making our government more affordable, competent and efficient.

For example, the president should work with Congress on real spending reform to bring the federal budget under control.  But when the so-called Super Committee failed in November to deliver a plan to cut $1.2 trillion from the federal budget, it should be noted that the president was missing in action from the process.

While President Obama blasts Republicans for their aversion to hiking taxes in the middle of a recession, he has nothing to say about the fact it has been nearly three years since the Congress enacted a budget to fund the federal government.  The day of President Obama’s State of the Union address will mark the 1,000th day that his Democrat allies in the Senate have failed to produce a budget at all.

President Obama boasts of cuts to government spending and waste, yet we can look at the figures and see plainly that spending has gone up every year of his presidency.  Government continues to grow out of control under his leadership (and to be fair, just as it grew under the leadership of his predecessor).  Yet he keeps pressing for higher taxes on job creators and promoting class warfare on “the rich” to fuel Washington’s spending addiction.

Cutting regulations?  Forget it.  The president claims to want to cut costly, job-killing regulations, pointing to his own September decision to block tightened ozone rules.  But on balance, the regulations his administration has blocked, removed or revised have been a drop in the bucket compared to the new rules and red tape enacted over the last three years.

In last year’s State of the Union address, the president sought to inspire by focusing on the nation’s long history of meeting challenges and pursuing dreams: “We do big things,” the president concluded.

That declaration is simple, straightforward and it speaks to the vision that many Americans have for this nation and for their own lives and for their children.  But if President Obama wants to achieve “big things,” then maybe he should start with laying aside the speeches and spending more time doing what needs to be done to deliver the affordable, competent and efficient government he envisioned a year ago. That means reducing spending, debt and regulations.

Mario H. Lopez is the President of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, an advocacy organization dedicated to promoting limited government, individual liberty and free enterprise.

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