Obama Needs to Take Charge on Debt
�Presidents have traditionally understood that reform and results take
leadership. Yet President Obama doesn't seem to care. He prefers to
play the blame game - giving speeches and knocking down straw men -
rather than do something about our skyrocketing debt. In short: he takes
the easy way out.�
following op-ed authored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) first appeared in :
Debates over U.S. government debt are as old as America
When the first Congress took office in 1789, our country was
grappling with a mountain of financial obligations. But within five
years, writes historian John Steele Gordon, we had "the highest credit
rating in Europe," and a French diplomat marveled that U.S. bonds were
"safe and free from reverses."
Sadly, our fiscal reputation
is no longer so pristine. It will continue to decline unless we break
the cycle of deficits that has made our gross national debt larger than
the entire U.S. economy.
Our debt has increased by nearly
$6 trillion since President Obama entered the White House and it is
projected to increase by another $9.5 trillion over the next
decade. Yet the president stubbornly refuses to show the leadership
necessary to get our long-term finances under control.
Obama always talks about a "balanced approach" to debt reduction but he
hasn't done much to support a balanced approach, despite having
numerous opportunities. He could have adopted the blueprint offered by his
own bipartisan fiscal commission. But he ignored it. Alternatively, he
could have embraced the strategy outlined by House Republicans. But he
ignored that plan, too.
The president doesn't seem to
appreciate the urgency of the moment. He doesn't seem to appreciate that
our country is headed for a real crisis.
shown that we are willing to support a budget that reduces our long-term
debt. But the only way America will make real progress on debt
reduction is if President Obama follows suit. Unfortunately, he seems
allergic to genuine bipartisan compromises.
Until the Obama
Administration, virtually every landmark domestic-policy change in modern
U.S. history was achieved with bipartisan support. For example, both
the 1935 Social Security Act and the 1964 Civil Rights
Act were signed by a Democratic president and endorsed by a large
majority of Senate Republicans. The 1996 Welfare Reform Act signed
by President Clinton was backed by every single member of the GOP
Senate caucus, along with a majority of Senate
Likewise, during the Reagan years, most Senate Democrats voted for
the 1983 Social Security Amendments, and a whopping 94% of Senate
Democrats voted for the 1986 Tax Reform Act. Under President George W.
Bush, 84% of Senate Democrats voted for the No Child Left Behind
In other words, presidents have traditionally
understood that reform and results take leadership.
Obama doesn't seem to care. He prefers to play the blame game -- giving
speeches and knocking down straw men -- rather than do something
about our skyrocketing debt. In short: he takes the easy way
Real debt reduction will require real presidential leadership
-- the kind of leadership that President Clinton displayed in 1993,
when he convinced 47% of Senate Democrats and 40% of
House Democrats to defy the unions and support the North American
Free Trade Agreement. (Since then, U.S. trade with Canada has nearly
tripled and U.S. trade with Mexico has increased almost
My hope is that President Obama will show the kind of leadership
we have seen throughout our nation's history. He has acknowledged that
no amount of tax increases could sustain Medicare in its present form.
He has also said that public officials who are concerned about
preserving government assistance for the elderly and the needy "have an
obligation" to reform our entitlement programs and ensure their long-term
viability. Yet he has done little to act on his own words, choosing
instead to demagogue GOP reform efforts.
keeps spending money we don't have and saddling our children with more
debt. Meanwhile, our safety-net programs are spiraling toward a collapse
that would leave the poor and the elderly even more vulnerable. It's
time for President Obama to move beyond the partisan rhetoric, drop
the gimmicks and do what's right for our country.