A goal of any administration should be to improve the lives of the nation's citizens. The surest way to do that for the long term is by fashioning an economically friendly environment. But such an environment is problematic when a government borrows 40 cents of every dollar it spends.
Four years ago, a handsome young man with brilliant oratory skills generated unprecedented excitement with his message of hope and change. America swooned and took a chance that a past president of the Harvard Law Review, senior lecturer at the University of Chicago, former community organizer and junior senator from Illinois possessed the experience, knowledge and skill sets necessary to "manage the world's largest economy, direct the world's most powerful military, and execute the world's most consequential job."
Yes, the president inherited problems, but the statute of limitations for blaming Bush has long since run out.
In a February 2009 interview with Matt Lauer on the "Today Show," President Obama said, "One nice thing about the situation I find myself in is that I will be held accountable ... and if I don't have this done in three years, it's going to be a one-term proposition."
Three weeks later on Feb. 23, 2009, he asseverated that statement in a speech to Congress: "I'm pledging to cut the deficit we inherited in half by the end of my first term in office. This will not be easy. It will require us to make difficult decisions and face challenges we've long neglected. But I refuse to leave our children with a debt that they cannot repay -- and that means taking responsibility right now, in this administration, for getting our spending under control."
Each of us has heard the adage that a man is only as good as his word, so I thought it might be interesting to deconstruct the president's statement to ascertain how well he's lived up to his word.
The president is a consummate orator, a man who chooses his words carefully, so let's first examine the president's use of the word "pledge," which according to Webster's is more than a promise -- it's a "solemn" promise.
Secondly, since the beginning of his re-election campaign the president has referred to the "trillion-dollar" deficit he inherited, but a Google search of several official U.S. government websites indicates he's being less than straightforward with the American people. The actual deficit Mr. Obama "inherited" wasn't $1 trillion, as he claims in his stump speeches. It was actually $420 billion.
Irrespective of the president's improvised statistics, what Mr. Obama fails to mention in those campaign speeches is that in 2008, then Sen. Obama voted in favor of that $420 billion budget deficit when his party controlled both houses of Congress. Ironically, the president actually inherited the very deficit he voted for. But regardless of his voting record, had the president made good on his pledge, today the nation's spending deficit would be $210 billion instead of $1.3 trillion.
President Obama also told us, "It will require us making difficult decisions" and "face challenges we've long-neglected." But such high-sounding rhetoric is meaningless unless accompanied by a specific plan, and how can the administration have a coherent fiscal plan for the future when the Senate has rejected his last three budget proposals by votes of 99-0, 98-0 and 99-0?
"I refuse to leave our children with a debt that they cannot repay" was another grandiloquent line from his speech to Congress. Politicians love referencing children because it shows their human side. But since making his pledge, the White House added $5.1 trillion to the nation's debt and projects it increasing to $25.9 trillion by 2022. So much for not leaving our children with a debt they cannot repay.
The president concluded his pledge by saying, "that means taking responsibility right now, in this administration, for getting our spending under control."
One would have to be delusional or economically illiterate to believe adding $5.1 trillion to the national debt in three years is taking responsibility for getting spending under control.
What makes the administration's performance even more indefensible is that after assuming office in January 2009, the president had supermajorities in the Senate and the House, thus giving his party control of both the executive and legislative branches of government.
Even with all the levers of power in Washington at his disposal, the best ideas the administration has come up with have resulted in $5.1 trillion in additional debt, a 300 percent increase in the deficit and 8.2 percent unemployment.
The first responsibility of leadership is competency. Today more than ever, America needs a leader who is not only economically competent, but also willing to take responsibility for the promises he makes.
Quote of the day: "Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it's the only one you have." Emile Chartier
Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes regularly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com.