Budget Policy: With his speech Wednesday, President Obama will try to claim leadership in the fight against the debt tsunami. But he's already had his chance to lead — many of them, in fact — and he blew it.
According to White House aide David Plouffe, Obama's speech will "lay out his approach ... in terms of the scale of debt reduction he thinks the country needs so we can grow economically and win the future."
That's a bit odd, since just two months ago Obama claimed that his 2012 budget plan "lays out a path for how we can pay down these debts and free the American economy from their burden."
Is he now admitting what everyone else quickly figured out — that his last budget was a complete sham?
It isn't just that the president hasn't been leading the fight for fiscal responsibility. It's that he's been consistently misleading the country about what he's doing. For more than two years, he has constantly talked about cutting spending and deficits while doing nothing to achieve those goals. A quick review:
• One of the first things the president did after taking office in 2009 was to claim that he'd scoured the budget and "identified $2 trillion worth of deficit reductions over the next decade." It was a bogus claim based on phony savings from ending the war on Iraq.
• A few months later, Obama ordered his Cabinet to identify $100 million in savings, a figure so laughably low that even the mainstream press had a hard time taking it seriously.
• Last February, amid growing Tea Party protests about the massive pile-up of debt, Obama ordered up a debt commission to, as he put it, "address the long-term quandary of a government that continually and extravagantly spends more than it takes in," only to completely ignore the commission's recommendations.
The topper came this February, when Obama produced a budget that he claimed (and the media mindlessly repeated) significantly cut federal spending. It didn't. In fact, Obama proposed spending $252 billion more in 2012 than the feds spent in 2010 — at the height of the stimulus spending spree.
That budget also did nothing to address entitlements and made no attempt to balance the federal books. Instead, it proposed adding $6.7 trillion in red ink over the next decade, pushing the national debt to more than 75% of gross domestic product, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
It's too bad for Obama that the public is paying attention to all this, which explains why they give him lower marks on the deficit than any other major public policy issue — according to the latest IBD/TIPP and Gallup polls.
Obama might think that, with a nice new speech, he can wipe this sorry slate clean and redraw himself as a responsible and reasonable fiscal hawk. Republicans, and the public at large, would all do well not to take him at his word.