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Obama's responsibility deficit

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In an appearance on “60 Minutes” on Sunday, President Obama declared, “I take full responsibility for everything that we do.” He then spent the rest of the appearance blaming outside forces for nearly every problem plaguing the country.

But none of his attempts to shift blame was more egregious than his refusal to take responsibility for his administration’s failure to tackle the nation’s debt.

“When I came into office, I inherited the biggest deficit in our history,” Obama insisted. “And over the last four years, the deficit has gone up, but 90 percent of that is as a consequence of two wars that weren’t paid for, as a consequence of tax cuts that weren’t paid for, a prescription drug plan that was not paid for, and then the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.”

These claims don’t stand up to scrutiny. On Jan. 7, 2009 — two weeks before Obama was sworn into office — the Congressional Budget Office released projections for the upcoming decade that took into account all of President Bush’s decisions as well as the ongoing collapse of the U.S. economy. At the time, the CBO projected deficits of $1.2 trillion in 2009 and $703 billion in 2010, for a total two-year deficit of about $1.9 trillion. The Obama administration went on to run deficits of $1.55 trillion in 2009 and $1.37 trillion in 2010, for a total of more than $2.9 trillion. In other words, in just his first two years, when Obama had a Democratic Congress that gave him virtually everything he wanted, deficits were $1 trillion higher than what the CBO was projecting when he was inaugurated.

For 2011 and 2012, the numbers are even worse. The CBO had projected combined deficits of $762 billion for those two years. Obama’s actual deficits have hit at least $2.5 trillion (the 2012 fiscal year ends Sept. 30). Though liberals would point to the extension of the Bush tax cuts as a reason for that discrepancy, it was Obama who signed that extension into law at the end of 2010. If he had thought this was so damaging to the nation’s fiscal condition, he could have allowed all the tax cuts to expire, or, when Democrats controlled Congress, he could have pushed for legislation that kept taxes down only for those earning more than $250,000.

It’s also important to note that even if we judge Obama by the standard he set for himself, he’s been a failure when it comes to restraining deficits. Recall that on Feb. 23, 2009 (a month into his presidency) Obama convened a “fiscal responsibility summit” in the White House. Here is what he said: “[T]oday, I’m pledging to cut the deficit we inherited in half by the end of my first term in office,” Obama declared. “This will not be easy. It will require us to make difficult decisions and face challenges we’ve long neglected. But I refuse to leave our children with a debt that they cannot repay — and that means taking responsibility right now, in this administration, for getting our spending under control.”

Obama’s defenders might argue that at the time he made that statement, he didn’t grasp the full extent of the economic crisis. The problem with that argument is that he continued to restate that pledge even after the economic picture deteriorated further.

For instance, at a July 20, 2010, press availability, Obama insisted, “We are on the path to cutting our deficits in half.”

On Feb. 15, 2011, Obama touted his fiscal year 2012 budget that was released after he had already signed a full extension of the Bush tax cuts. “When I took office, I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term,” he said. “Our budget meets that pledge and puts us on a path to pay for what we spend by the middle of the decade.”

As we saw above, the 2009 deficit Obama “inherited” was $1.2 trillion, according to the CBO, meaning he would have had to get it down to $600 billion in 2012 to meet his pledge. In actuality, the deficit was $1.17 trillion through the first 11 months of 2012.

Should Obama get re-elected, he’ll inherit a heck of a fiscal mess — from himself.

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Author:

Philip Klein

Commentary Editor
The Washington Examiner