In the not-too-distant future, a president will have to make tough decisions about the nation’s debt and unsustainable spending. With the release of his budget on Feb. 14, President Obama made it clear that he will not be that leader. His budget kicks the can down the road, leaving the hard choices to someone else.
The annual budget gives the president an opportunity to lay out his vision for the country. After the elections in November and a growing consensus that the nation’s fiscal path is unsustainable, one might think that President Obama got the message: Washington needs to rein in out-of-control spending and reduce the debt.
He didn’t. In fact, his budget is built around three things that we don’t need: more debt, more spending, and more taxes.
The budget projects crushing debt for years to come. It adds nearly $13 trillion in new debt by the end of the decade. Gross debt by the end of the decade will reach $26.3 trillion — or 107 percent of gross domestic product. The debt will eclipse the size of the entire economy. Gross debt is projected to remain above 100 percent of GDP for every following year. In other words, the United States will look more and more like the financial disasters in Greece and other European economies.
That’s a gloomy outlook, and it would be prudent to stop raiding the treasury. But, not in this budget. Under President Obama’s budget, the size of the federal government will nearly double since he took office. Over the next 10 years, the president proposes $8.7 trillion in new spending, with $46 trillion in total spending. Spending in this fiscal year is projected to be a record $3.8 trillion, or 25.3 percent of gross domestic product, the highest spending-to-GDP ratio since World War II!
President Obama does call for a five-year, $400 billion spending freeze, but that freeze merely locks in the high spending levels of the past few years. That’s like closing the barn door after the horse has left. In my view, we should reduce spending to the levels before passage of the stimulus, cash-for-clunkers, and other budget-busting initiatives.
The president also says his budget would cut spending by $1.1 trillion over the coming decade, but that figure is smaller than the projected $1.5 trillion deficit just for 2011.
Of course, someone has to pay for all that spending. China’s not going to finance it all, so the American people are going to have to chip in some of their hard-earned dollars. In total, the Obama budget includes $1.6 trillion in new taxes on families, small businesses, and job creators. Those include higher income taxes, higher capital gains and dividend taxes, new taxes on energy, and a new gas tax. Our economy is recovering from the recession, but millions of people are still looking for jobs. We don’t need to punish job creators with higher taxes. Taxes sent to the government means less money that businesses can use to hire new employees.
President Obama could have exercised leadership with his budget. He could have proposed bold spending cuts and sought to start a discussion about entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security. Instead, it’s more of the same — more spending, more debt, more taxes.
Republicans stand ready to work with the president to cut government spending and reduce the debt. After seeing his budget, we are still waiting.
Sen. Jon Kyl is the Senate Republican Whip and serves on the Senate Finance and Judiciary committees. Visit his Web site at www.kyl.senate.gov or his YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/senjonkyl.