- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

President Obama officially has begun his 2012 campaign, telling special-interest groups what the government will do for them if he is elected to a second term.

But the question many people are asking are: What else is he running on besides government handouts? What is his second-term agenda? What is he planning to do if he wins? Well, he doesn’t say.

There is no hint of a grand plan for dealing with the mountain of unfinished problems he has left behind in the nation’s capital as he piles up frequent-flyer miles in hot pursuit of his singular goal: becoming a two-term president.

His campaign rhetoric thus far gives us no clue that he intends to address the big problems that still need to be fixed. He knows what they are because polls tell us what America’s primary concerns are: a lackluster, slow-growth, subpar economy and far too few jobs; a monster $1.2 trillion budget deficit, the fourth of his big-spending presidency; and a $16 trillion debt by the end of this year.

But Mr. Obama isn’t talking about a mediocre economy that appears to be slowing down - again.

He isn’t talking about jobs or bemoaning the fact that many college grads - who this week he promised an extension of low-interest student loans - can’t find work that will allow them to pay back the government.

As for the loan extension Mr. Obama is pushing on the campaign trail, it’s interesting to note that in 2007, then-Sen. Obama missed two pivotal Senate votes on the bill that created the program.

He is embracing it now because he needs the support of younger voters to save his presidency, but he did not vote for the original bill or its final passage, and didn’t bother to sign on as a co-sponsor, according to a report in Tuesday’s Politico.

This week he was speaking at universities in North Carolina, Colorado and Iowa to champion extending the loan program. Maybe a student will ask him: Why he didn’t take the time to vote for it in the first place? But let’s not trifle over small matters. He was too busy running for president in 2007 to be bothered with student loans and doing his job as a senator for which he was paid $174,000 a year. Let’s move on to other matters.

How about more than $5.3 trillion in four consecutive budget deficits? What deficits? The national debt? What debt? No one cares about those issues, do they?

But when the Gallup Poll asked voters, “What would you say worries you most about the national economy at this time?” the secod most frequent response (after jobs/unemployment) was the national debt and the federal budget deficit.

Mr. Obama is dead silent on both issues, despite millions of worried Americans, who fear we are plunging into a black hole of European-style debt that will engulf our economy.

Also missing from his stump speech is any mention of $4-plus gas prices that are cleaning out consumer wallets and crushing struggling small businesses - or what he intends to do about it. He could have begun by approving the Keystone XL pipeline that would have pumped enough oil down to the Gulf Coast to drive down oil and gas prices.

Mr. Obama, who put the environmental lobby ahead of jobs, household budgets and businesses, killed the deal that would have created 20,000 jobs - 13,000 in construction and 7,000 in manufacturing.

The Washington Post’s economics columnist Robert J. Samuelson called his decision “an act of national insanity.” But that’s yesterday’s news, and you won’t hear the president mentioning it in his campaign speeches any time soon.

He is much too busy dividing the country, playing class warfare and bitterly attacking Mitt Romney’s success, saying, “I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth.” Social Security’s board of trustees may have had the president in mind when it released a grim report Tuesday that said its trust fund will be depleted by 2033 - three years earlier than previously forecast.

“Never since the 1983 reforms have we come as close to the point of trust fund depletion as we are right now,” warned Charles Blahous, one of the trustees for Social Security and Medicare.

Both programs are facing enormous fiscal challenges before millions of baby boomers are eligible to sign up for both programs in the coming decade.

Does the president have a financial reform plan to save these programs from impending collapse? No, he’s too busy attacking a House Republican plan to keep Medicare solvent and appears content - for the time being - to ignore Social Security’s problems at our own peril.

Don’t expect Mr. Obama to address either program during this election season in any substantive way. You get more votes by attacking those who warn that both are headed toward a fiscal cliff.

Then there’s the issue of reckless, irresponsible, government spending and the critical need to reform and restructure what the government does and how it spends money.

Annual federal spending is fast approaching $4 trillion a year, fueled by an ocean of government waste, fraud, abuse and untold duplication. But the only reform Mr. Obama has put forward is to make government bigger and more costly than ever.

The General Services Administration’s $823,000 Las Vegas party scandal is the tip of the iceberg.

“Every time we turned over a stone, we found 50 more with all kinds of things crawling out,” GSA Inspector General Brian Miller told a House investigating committee.

The Government Accountability Office, Congress’ spending watchdog, says there is at least $200 billion a year in program duplication throughout the government.

Mr. Romney has suggested a top-to-bottom overhaul of the government that would eliminate needless programs, merge departments and cut payrolls to save hundreds of billions of tax dollars.

But this is an issue about which Mr. Obama has nothing to say. He’s into spending, not savings.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.

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