Liberals Talk Big About Reducing the Debt, But Their Actual Policies Just Keep Growing It

Matthew Sheffield
By Matthew Sheffield | January 31, 2012 | 4:36 PM EST

Finding the inconsistencies and the reminders of broken promises in President Barack Obama's recent State of the Union speech is like looking for sand on a beach, but one of the most glaring examples is how the president talked about the national debt.

He mentioned it only briefly:

“Now, a return to the American values of fair play and shared responsibility will help protect our people and our economy. But it should also guide us as we look to pay down our debt and invest in our future.”

Obama then shifted to pushing for extension of the payroll tax cut, before claiming to have reduced the deficit by “more than $2 trillion in cuts and savings.” He then pushed his favorite hobby horse, once again demanding a tax increase to pay for all that savings and for “investments” in “everything else.”

Obama said that we must chose between keeping taxes low on “the wealthiest Americans” and reducing the national debt. “If we're serious about paying down our debt, we can't do both.”

It was a rousing moment that drew applause from Democrats, who have for years made a show of being serious about the debt, except when they are in control of the taxing and the spending.

For example, as a presidential candidate on July 3, 2008, Barack Obama decried the $4 trillion increase in the national debt under President George W. Bush as “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic.” The national debt that day was $9.49 trillion.

Three months later, on Oct. 1, 2008, Obama voted yes on legislation to create the $700 billion TARP program. The national debt that day: $10.12 trillion.

Three months and 19 days later, Obama was inaugurated. The national debt that day was $10.62 trillion – almost $2 trillion higher than it was on January 4, 2007, when newly-sworn-in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi roused liberals everywhere with her stirring call to end deficit spending: 

"After years of historic deficits, this 110th Congress will commit itself to a higher standard,” said Pelosi. “Pay as you go, no new deficit spending. Our new America will provide unlimited opportunity for future generations, not burden them with mountains of debt."

The national debt that day: $8.67 trillion.

Pelosi was ousted from the Speaker's chair four years later, replaced by Republican John Boehner on January 3, 2011. In the four years following her promise to end deficit spending, the national debt grew to $13.99 trillion – a $5.3 trillion increase in four years, an increase that, had he been running for President, Barack Obama might have called unpatriotic.

But since more than half of Pelosi's debt increase came while he was President, in order to pay for his "stimulus" program and his spending spree, all we hear from Obama is occasional promises to “pay down the debt” that are mostly drowned out by an endless flood of proposals for more spending.

As of last Friday, the national debt stood at $15.23 trillion - $4.6 trillion higher than when he took office three years before. He's added more debt in three years than the “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic” $4 trillion in debt added in eight years by President George W. Bush.

Obama and his fellow liberal politicians for a long time have made a show of being serious about the debt, while their actual policies without exception increase spending and increase debt. Even if Obama's entire tax and spending agenda – including higher taxes on the wealthy and his new “Buffett Rule” tax – was passed, it would do basically nothing to reduce our national debt. 

According to the CBO, over the next 10 years, America is looking at a slightly smaller debt than currently, $8.5 trillion. That's largely due to some temporary expenditures phasing out, such as the Iraq war, TARP and "stimulus" spending. The long-term problems of Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid are still unsolved by Obama since, according to the Tax Foundation, passing his "Buffett Rule" is only going to bring in $40 billion annually. That's chump change in the grand scheme of things.

America should have seen this coming. (And, to be fair, many conservatives did.) Because Obama gave us signs early in his short Senate career that he really didn't care about the national debt.

“You know, there's a lot of talk in this country about the federal deficit,” he said in a speech on August 11, 2006, six months before announcing he would run for President. “But I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit - the ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes; to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us - the child who's hungry, the steelworker who's been laid-off, the family who lost the entire life they built together when the storm came to town. When you think like this - when you choose to broaden your ambit of concern and empathize with the plight of others, whether they are close friends or distant strangers - it becomes harder not to act; harder not to help.”

Harder not to increase the deficit, in other words.

Obama was right about one thing, however. Back in March 2006, in a speech about President Bush's request for an increase in the debt ceiling – which Sen. Obama voted against – the future big-spending president said this:

“Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that 'the buck stops here'. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and Grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better."

Indeed we do. The question is: Who will provide that leadership since Obama hasn't?

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