Op-Ed: What The President Should Have Said
Imagine the political discourse if President Obama had said these words last month:
"My fellow Americans, the state of our Union is imperiled by unsustainable debt fed by spending from both parties for a political generation. It erodes the contract we have with our constituents through important entitlement programs.
"Our children's hopes and dreams for a prosperous future will be snuffed out before they ever enter the work force by crippling taxes. We must resolve this debt now if we are ever to move forward as a nation. To meet our obligations, we must cut spending."
What if the president signaled that he had heard the American people who replaced Democrats with Republicans in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts by saying this: "I know Americans are angry. They feel Washington has broken faith with them by spending more of their hard earned money when Americans are struggling to save. The urge to spend is the worst symptom of Potomac Fever, yet we must find a cure to regain the public trust"?
Imagine the hope that would be instilled if he had previewed his budget with this real change:
"Tax increases, seen and unseen, can only get us so far. There is a limit to how much government can reasonably tax a free people. If we have not reached that limit, we are perilously close to it. Instead, we must cut and reform. My budget this year will cut spending 5 percent across the board in every department.
"None of your constituents believe that Washington can't reasonably save a nickel for every dollar we would have spent. In 2012, we will make the same cut. Every year of my presidency will save 5 percent from the year before. We will use the savings to pay down 42 percent of our debt and will reduce spending by $562 billion over 10 years."
Cut 5% across the board
The president would have found allies nationwide in governors who have already accomplished more if he had said: "Across America, governors have already taken this action. Gov. Phil Bredesen has cut the Tennessee budget and with his legislature; made tough, fiscally sound choices. They reformed the state' largest entitlement program, TennCare, to reduce waste and excess. We must take the same steps with federal entitlements."
Unfortunately, the president didn't say any of these things.
If the president cut 5 percent from the budget every year for 10 years, resetting the baseline each time, he would ultimately cut federal spending by about 40 percent from the total he proposed last week.
It is too much to hope for that this president and Democratic Congress would impose an across-the-board tax cut. But, if they agreed to a tax freeze, it could turn billions back into the economy by giving Americans certainty about their federal obligation, and offering them encouragement to save and invest. Economic growth could pay off what debt spending cuts did not cover.
Americans are fed up with out-of-control spending and are ready to support leaders from whatever party chooses to impose fiscal discipline.
We only need to ask ourselves: Is it reasonable to ask the federal government to save 5 cents from every dollar it spends and recognize that our current tax burden is sufficient? If the answer is yes, and I believe it is, then our economic path forward is clear.