The King's (Upcoming) Speech

Why it will be more politics than new policy

Apr 11 2011

Over the weekend, the Administration announced the President would be giving a speech on deficit reduction on Wednesday.  While I would like to believe the President is sincere in taking concrete steps toward spending reforms and reducing our deficit, I remain highly skeptical that he is willing to make the tough decisions.

For starters, the President’s former campaign manager, who now serves as the top political adviser in the White House, delivered the news. If the President was trying to indicate a serious shift in policy, the message should have come from someone with more substantive policy responsibilities over the economy and budget, not a political strategist.  

Next, the use of “deficit reduction” instead of “spending reform” is important.  The President’s idea of deficit reduction in the past has been to raise taxes – specifically by letting the Bush tax cuts expire and increasing costs for oil and gas companies.  While this unrealistic proposal to hike taxes and make villains out of America’s domestic energy providers wins favor among the President’s base, it is not a path to fiscal responsibility.

Finally, Rep. Paul Ryan put forth a budget proposal last week which contains several good ideas about how to reform entitlements – the key to significantly reducing our debt.   However, the Administration spent last week attacking Ryan’s proposals and mischaracterizing them to try and score political points. That makes it all the less likely he will address real entitlement reform on Wednesday.  Congress and the American people should reject any plan that does not include such reforms.

Frankly, the President should just start over and submit a new budget.  His original budget ignored our most serious challenges and makes the deficit and debt worse.  I am hopeful the President will avoid making another political speech, but the evidence of last week suggests that’s exactly what we will get.