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EDITORIAL: Calling the president’s bluff on deficits

Talk is cheap; Obama policies expensive

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Sunday's close to the Group of 20 summit in Toronto opened a new window into President Obama's thinking on the deficit. In a response to a press question about what concrete steps the U.S. would take to reduce its growing debt burden, Mr. Obama promised future cuts - while at the same time preaching the benefits of massive short-term "stimulus" spending to the troubled European nations. The message may have been muddled, but the president's words were forceful.

"One of the interesting things that's happened over the last 18 months as president is, for some reason people keep being surprised when I do what I said I was going to do," Mr. Obama asserted regarding his budget plans. The problem is that the president has not been keeping the promises made during the 2008 election campaign.

In the presidential debates, then-Sen. Barack Obama attempted to paint himself as more fiscally responsible than his opponent, Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican. "You'll hear Senator McCain say, well, 'He's proposing a whole bunch of new spending,' but actually I'm cutting more than I'm spending, so that it will be a net spending cut." Candidate Obama added his justifiable outrage over the red ink that accumulated under President George W. Bush's watch. A $5 trillion debt doubled over the course of eight years.

Despite the promise, Mr. Obama has done nothing to address the deficit-spending problem. To the contrary, he has only increased the pace of the Treasury's borrowing. The Bush administration's spending excess averaged $1.6 billion per day. The Obama administration so far has boosted this figure by 175 percent to $4.6 billion. That's the opposite of a "net spending cut." According to the most conservative of budget projections, Mr. Obama will add another $10 trillion to the debt by the end of the decade.

Over the weekend, Mr. Obama suggested that spending cuts were on the way in the near future. "People should learn that lesson about me, because next year when I start presenting some very difficult choices to the country, I hope some of these folks who are hollering about deficits and debt step up because I'm calling their bluff," he asserted. Yet the deficit would have been much lower had Republicans succeeded in stopping the president's $862 billion stimulus, the supplemental spending bills and other spending increases.

If Mr. Obama does deliver the deep cuts required to bring the bloated federal budget under control, we will be the first to applaud this course reversal. Until then, it is only possible to judge the president based on what he has done while in office. Mr. Obama's most cherished accomplishment so far has been the creation of a new government health care entitlement. This new law expands - not reduces - the size, scope and cost of government. If the president really means what he says about tough choices in the name of fiscal discipline, he can prove it by calling for the repeal of Obamacare.

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