Obama's debt of promises
President Obama, as with so many others in Washington, is deep in debt. He's asking Americans to give him yet more time to consider tackling Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security spending. And in return, he's promising to try to reform these politically sacred programs -- soon, and for real.
The president's widely criticized 2012 budget proposal, which came out Monday, didn't touch these entitlements, even though Medicare and Medicaid are set to balloon the national debt rapidly after 2020. So he called a news conference Tuesday to defend his plan.
His budget, Obama said, wasn't supposed to be a long-term solution to America's problems. His plan for fiscal year 2012 is to "stabilize" spending. He'll take on entitlements next.
How? Not with some "Obama plan," the president said Tuesday. And not really with the detailed proposal his fiscal commission released late last year, which, he said, provides only "a basic framework." But he said he will consider the fiscal commission's work and speak to Republicans and liberal Democrats seriously about the issue. The strategy still seems to not get too far ahead of anyone else in Washington.
"You guys are pretty impatient. If something doesn't happen today, then the assumption is that it's not going to happen," the president said. "This is not a matter of 'you go first' or 'I go first.' This is a matter of everybody having a serious conversation about where we want to go and then ultimately everybody getting into that boat at the same time so it doesn't tip over."
But these are the sorts of things heard during the 2008 campaign -- we'll offer plans for real entitlement reform when we've dealt with other pressing issues. (Such as, presumably, winning the election.) Americans heard it during the stimulus debate -- we'll have serious talk on deficits and entitlement spending after we restabilize the economy. "It's true that this is my third budget," Obama acknowledged Tuesday. "My first two budgets were in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression. So we had another set of priorities."
Fair enough. But now the line is: We'll push hard and publicly on entitlements after we get through my budget for next year, and after we persuade Republicans and liberal Democrats to be reasonable. Maybe the president will pull something off, after all. But the pattern is getting ominous -- and the excuses less convincing.
| February 15, 2011; 1:55 PM ET
Categories: Stromberg | Tags: Stephen Stromberg
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