Obama's Big Thing is More Debt, Faster

Posted: Jun 07, 2011 12:01 AM

It’s a term that is slowly becoming one of President Obama’s re-election maxims:  America does “big things.”

Unfortunately, the “big things” America’s been up to the last couple years aren’t equivalents of a Moon Landing, a Wright Brothers’ plane, or Edison’s light bulb.

The failed stimulus, bailouts, cash for clunkers, and a variety of other “big things” have all contributed to America running up the largest deficits in its history.

The biggest thing this president has accomplished is running up more debt faster than any other leader in the history of the world. Today the debt stands at $14.3 trillion—America owes more money than any other nation ever.

The result? Moody’s says if we don’t show real progress on the debt by next month they will downgrade our credit rating, which could lead to higher interest rates and fewer jobs.

This debt threatens not only the economy, but the very nature of America. It is a crime against future generations.

Since concluding my three terms as Governor of New York I have sought out groups and individuals to tackle our national debt and avert a fiscal catastrophe. 

More and more Americans understand that we are mortgaging our children’s future to pay for the reckless spending decisions of the past and present.  In fact, according to a recent Gallup poll, almost a fifth of Americans regard the deficit as the most pressing issue facing the nation, the most in fifteen years

Unfortunately, both parties are to blame. In a decade, our nation – under both Republican and Democrat presidents – has added almost $10 trillion to our national debt.  Every American today carries a $46,000 share of the national debt.  Every taxpayer owes $129,000. 

We are leaving future generations to pick up the tab for Washington’s fiscal profligacy.  Americans are learning that our debt, unless directly addressed, will inevitably lead to national decline and falling living standards.  This isn’t some wild prediction, but a lesson of history.

That is why we recently launched No American Debt, an organization that seeks to advance the national dialogue about our country’s debt crisis by engaging President Obama and other presidential candidates across the country.  Our key objective will be to ensure that all policymakers who want to be president are serious about addressing our deficit.  We will compare their budget plans and grade them appropriately. 

The meager cuts that Republicans and President Obama have already agreed to don’t represent the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a debt of this size. Our elected officials are going to have to go beyond cutting wasteful government spending and confront the “Big Four”:  Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and defense. 

The “Big Four” alone swallow over 60% of the budget annually.  Without tackling them we have no chance of coming to grips with our budget.  That requires Democrats to accept that entitlements have to be reformed, and Republicans to acknowledge that the Pentagon’s budget must be cut. 

Unfortunately, some early attempts to tackle the “Big Four” have been met with hostility and opprobrium.  There are good ideas out there. The president’s own bipartisan Deficit Commission recommended $4 trillion in cuts.

The president has ignored them. Congressman Paul Ryan proposed $6 trillion in cuts. The president and his administration have attacked the plan relentlessly. The Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sibelius went as far to claim that Ryan’s plan would make seniors “die sooner.”

We have to do better and move the discussion beyond such preposterous claims.  Each and every one of us has a moral obligation to discuss the deficit and to address it. 

To avert a downgrade to our credit rating the President will have to tackle the debt head-on. He won’t solve the debt crisis by talking about big things… he’ll have to do some.

George E. Pataki was the 53rd Governor of New York and is the Honorary Chairman of No American Debt.

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