Obama proposes massive increase in the national debt
That's right. For all his talk of fiscal discipline, the president reveals his true priorities in the budget released today. Jake Tapper of ABC reports:
President Obama later today will propose a 10-year budget plan that would increase the national debt by $7.2 trillion over 10 years -- $1.1 trillion less than if it weren't implemented.
The plan shows that Obama will not take the lead on any aggressive measure to eliminate the nation's $14 trillion debt. This sets up the Obama administration on a collision course with Republicans, who are calling for serious deficit reduction and spending cuts. On Friday night, House Republicans unveiled a spending bill to fund the government for the next seven months that they say will reduce the president's requested spending levels this year by at least $100 billion.
Obama seems to have decided on the Bill Clinton strategy -- lay low, make Congress do the hard work, and demagogue serious cuts. A Republican House leadership adviser said simply, "The president punted."
Meanwhile, over on the Senate side, I asked for reaction from Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). He was not impressed. His office provided this response on behalf of the Minority Leader: "The president talks like someone who recognizes that spending is out of control, but so far it hasn't been matched with action. And his only solution to one of the most significant problems facing our country is to lock in spending at levels we all know are completely unsustainable. Americans don't want a spending freeze at unsustainable levels. They want cuts, dramatic cuts. And I hope the president will work with us on achieving them soon." And, his spokesman pointed out, Obama is suggesting "deficit reduction many years in the future."
This is an extraordinary abrogation of leadership. The Republicans have an opportunity to seize the high ground and prove their mettle as fiscal hawks. The GOP House leadership is still working on the Continuing Resolution for 2011, but soon it will have its chance to offer an alternative to Obama's remarkable suggestion that we should massively increase the debt over the next decade.
UPDATE (9:43 a.m.): "Punt" seems to be the word of the day. A House Budget Committee aide emails me: "It looks to be another disappointing presidential punt. The president was elected to solve problems, not avoid criticism. This budget speaks to his concern for his political safety ahead of the social safety net. He's looking to secure his position for the next election rather than secure a prosperous future for the next generation."
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