Unlike his inaugural address, the president's State of the Union address Tuesday night actually touched on the two issues Americans rank as their top concerns: the economy and government spending. Sadly, his record suggests he's unlikely to get serious about either of them.
First, President Obama insisted his proposals won't add a "single dime to our deficit." Sound familiar? It should. In 2008, then-Sen. Obama said Washington must take "responsibility for every dime that it spends." In 2009, he declared before Congress that he would not sign a health care bill "that adds one dime to our deficits." But according to the Congressional Budget Office, Obamacare's provisions will increase the federal deficit by more than $1 trillion through 2022. In 2011, he promised to find "every single dime of waste and misspent money" in the budget. But under Obama, the national debt has increased more than under any president — $5.86 trillion, or 58.6 trillion dimes.
In past State of the Union addresses, Obama paid lip service to deficit reduction but then did nothing. In 2012, he said, "We need to do more" on the deficit, "and that means making choices." In 2011, he declared the federal government should "sacrifice to live within their means." In 2010, he said the government should emulate families "tightening their belts and making tough decisions." So Americans shouldn't be surprised when he continues this pattern of ignoring his own words. Old habits die hard.
Likewise, we should be suspicious about his State of the Union talk on job creation. The president's advisers heralded the speech as a major "pivot" to the economy. But the president has made countless such "pivots" in the past, promising to focus on the economy and then ultimately putting his energies toward other liberal agenda items. In December 2009, the White House promised a "very hard pivot to jobs" in the new year. But by March 2010, the New York Times' Jeff Zeleny was left asking, "Whatever happened to that shift from health care to the economy?"
Throughout 2010 and 2011, Democrats repeatedly announced plans to "turn back" to the economy, or "pivot to" jobs. ABC's Jake Tapper complained in August of 2011, "It feels like every couple of months I am reporting that the White House is announcing that they are pivoting to a jobs agenda."
The White House never followed through. The president's most-championed policies — Obamacare, regulations, reckless spending, tax increases — did more to destroy jobs than create them. And his record belies his rhetoric. Unemployment stands at 7.9 percent, higher than when he took office.
Today businesses large and small are unable to hire new workers due to the uncertainty created by our $16.5 trillion debt and sky-high deficits. The resulting weak economy means less money in the pockets of hardworking Americans, who already are feeling the effects of higher payroll taxes this year.
Yet Democrats still don't believe we have a problem. On Sunday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi bizarrely insisted, "It is almost a false argument to say we have a spending problem." On Tuesday, Rep. Steny Hoyer proclaimed, "The country has a paying-for problem." Similarly, the president told Speaker John Boehner last month, "We don't have a spending problem."
We can't expect Democrats to fix a problem they don't really believe exists, and higher taxes are not the answer. In fact, President Obama already got the tax increases he wanted in the deal to avoid the fiscal cliff, and no amount of reasonable tax increases could stave off the dramatic increase in spending that will happen in the coming decades. The only logical way forward is spending restraint and entitlement reform.
The Republican-led House of Representatives has done its part, passing budgets that get spending under control and tax reforms that would allow Americans to keep more of their hard-earned money and spur economic growth. But the Democrat-controlled Senate has failed to pass a budget in nearly four years, and Obama has missed the deadline to submit his budget this year.
A growing government, which the president favors, stifles economic growth, making it harder to attain the American dream. If government isn't limited, opportunity will be. That's why Republicans want a smarter, more efficient government that lives within its means, freeing the American people to innovate, dream, build and achieve.
The president talks a good game, and he delivered a nice speech Tuesday night. But Americans need and deserve more. We don't want the president to tell us he cares about jobs and spending. We need him to show us. If not, he'll just confirm what we should already know: He's not serious.