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Monday, May 16, 2022

Columns

Debt still a mark on Obama’s budget


On Feb. 23, 2009, President Barack Obama made a very clear promise to America. “Today,” he said, “I’m pledging to cut the deficit we inherited in half by the end of my first term in office.” As Americans, we believed it. We wanted to believe it. We needed to believe it because the Great Recession was kicking our heads in hard, and belief was all we had left. We wanted to think Obama, junior senator from Illinois, could make a difference in America.

Cut to the end of his first term in office: It seems it was a hollow promise the president has broken repeatedly. When Obama took office, he inherited a $1.2 trillion deficit from the Bush administration. By the end of that fiscal year — thanks to his various pet projects and bright ideas — the deficit shot up to $1.8 trillion.

This year, the president has announced a budget which features our deficit at $1.5 trillion. While that’s less than he spent by the end of 2009, $300 billion more than what he inherited from the Bush administration is not cutting your starting amount in half.

But I’m willing to give him a pass on this. When you’re spiraling in a nose dive, it’s normal to go a bit deeper down before leveling out, right?

That would be the idea, to level out our economy and bring us back up. That was what Obama meant to do, cut our annual trillion dollar spending deficit by half, as opposed to the entire debt. But if the president’s idea of cutting down our spending is to keep on spending, someone needs to explain what the words “cut down spending” mean.

For starters, it doesn’t mean dumping what money we do have into federal entitlement programs while demanding federal workers pay another 1.2 percent out of pocket to finance their own retirement benefits — which they might not even see if it goes to Social Security.

It doesn’t mean spending more to bring in new, multi-billion dollar government programs when our old government programs and tax codes are bleeding money by the second.

That’s like having one bucket with a giant hole in the side and deciding the best way to keep water from falling out the other end is to buy a second, golden bucket and twirl them both around your head while hopping on one knee. It makes no sense.

That isn’t entirely fair, though. Obama has made some spending cuts, such as the ones promised in the debt-ceiling agreement which will drop our spending by a percent. Half of the money cut will be coming from our defense budget.

As a quick recap: Twirl one old, broken bucket and one new, expensive bucket. To pay off the interest for the second bucket, we sold tickets for punches to our face.

However, the president’s budget proposal does have its silver linings. Of course it does. It’s an election year after all. All we have to do is re-elect him to see the outcome of that silver lining. What Obama promises is 17.8 percent GDP increase by 2013. What we have to ignore to get to that point is that he’s nearly doubled our debt in half the time it took President George W. Bush.

We also have to ignore the fact that his plan isn’t meaningful spending cuts, but to raise taxes on people who pay more tax dollars than 97 percent of the country. Instead of paying off our debt, we’ve been raising our debt ceiling just so his administration can continue to spend more. But it’ll get better, he promised. We just have to re-elect him.

That isn’t how re-elections work, Obama.  Americans hired you for a job we thought you could do and do well.

Are your political opponents stubbornly blocking your every move based on an ideological shift to appease the crazies of their party, while alienating the more moderate but still right-leaning base that is the rest of America? Yes. Are recessions hard to get out of? Yes. But is spending more the solution to not spending so much? No. And you do not get to ask for a second chance and promise us the same rehearsed garbage we’ve been hearing time and time again from you. America is sick of promises. That was okay for Round One, but America needs results, and it needs results now.

However, given the circus that’s quickly become the race for the Republican nomination, President Obama is probably going to get the second chance he’s asking for, whether we like it or not. So once again, Americans will just have to wait for Obama’s Change, hoping he’s finally worked out the kinks in his plan.

James Wang is a history freshman and may be reached at [email protected]

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