How do you take seriously a speech in which the president says we will spend more money on educating students, rebuilding our infrastructure and funding research for innovation in alternative energy sources — all while saying we’re not going to spend more money?
How do you take seriously a speech in which the only budgetary dollar figure the president gives is a made-up one — a reduction in spending (even as spending is frozen, remember) as compared only to hypothetical future budgets?
How do you take seriously a speech in which the president claims the mantle of fiscal restraint — while essentially bidding to make permanent the supposedly temporary, stimulus-inflated levels of spending we’ve seen the last two years?
How do you take seriously a speech in which the president says he will work more closely with Republicans — by making the same offers he has made, but not acted on, in previous speeches? (Examples: “If you have ideas about how to improve [the health-reform] law…I am eager to work with you,” and, “I’m willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year: medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits” [my emphasis, because he's admitting he didn't act on it when they proposed it before].)
How do you take seriously a speech in which the president acknowledges that his own fiscal-reform commission said “the only way to tackle our deficit is to cut excessive spending wherever we find it” — and then essentially rules out cutting spending in entitlements?
Given all this, how do you take seriously those parts of the speech that did offer pleasant surprises — his calls to flatten and lower corporate income-tax rates, to simplify individual income taxes (note that he didn’t offer to simplify and then lower rates), to merge and consolidate duplicative federal agencies, and to veto any bill with earmarks?
Seriously — how?
The next two years are going to be even harder than I thought.
– By Kyle Wingfield
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