Memo to Obama: Solving the Deficit Requires Leadership, Not Partisanship

In hindsight it seems patently absurd, a fleeting anachronism of a president that no longer exists. People rarely remember that just months after taking office President Obama, the spender-in-chief himself, called a “Fiscal Irresponsibility Summit” to, in the words of the Washington Post, “bring together a variety of voices on solving the long term problems with the economy and with a special focus on entitlements.”

“Contrary to the prevailing wisdom in Washington these past few years, we cannot simply spend as we please and defer the consequences to the next budget, the next administration or the next generation,” Obama said at the Summit. “[I]f we confront this crisis without also confronting the deficits that helped cause it, we risk sinking into another crisis down the road. As our interest payments rise, our obligations come due, confidence in our economy erodes and our children and our grandchildren are unable to pursue their dreams because their saddled with our debts.”

Sadly, that president quickly disappeared in the weeks and months to follow. Far from a deficit crusader, he ended up presiding over the largest deficits in the history of the United States. Under his “leadership” our country now finds itself on the brink of a perfectly preventable fiscal disaster caused by a growing global doubt of our ability, or our willingness, to pay off our debts.

Since the ill-fated Fiscal Irresponsibility Summit President Obama has completely moved away from any sort of “special focus on entitlements.” Rather than make the necessary changes to put these massive programs – Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and now, Obamacare – on a path towards fiscal sustainability, President Obama has refused to budge. Whereas once he dreamed of being a reformer, his first four years have belied his true nature as a tax hiker.

But he is also keen to make history. Now that he has racked up historic debts, he is now willing to make a historic deal to get a handle on them. For years he has been trying to craft a “grand bargain” with Speaker Boehner that would raise taxes in return for modest changes to entitlement programs. Unfortunately, his resolve has broken down at every turn.

In the debt limit debates of two years ago he was close to reaching a deal, only to move the goalpost by doubling his revenue demands at the last minute. More recently, in the fiscal cliff negotiations, Obama originally entertained small changes to Medicare and Social Security, before being promptly lambasted by his party, and pulling any reforms off the table.

This type of waffling, says John Boehner, is simply unacceptable.

“If we’re going to find bipartisan solutions, the president will have to move beyond the same proposals and Democratic dogma,” writes Boehner in today’s Washington Post. “For all of Washington’s focus on the president’s outreach to Republicans, it’s his engagement with members of his own party that will determine whether we succeed in dealing with the challenges facing our own economy.

Unfortunately, it appears just the opposite is happening. Rather than show any signs of leadership, he is showing clear indications he is becoming more beholden to the leftist elements of the Democrat Party. Politico reports:

“President Barack Obama may be thinking about a “grand bargain” to address spending and the federal deficit, but there’s a key constituency he has to persuade to come along.

The talk of any deal with Congressional Republicans – and for now, it’s just that: talk – has liberals worried the White House will give in to changes to safety net programs including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

. . . Inevitably, if there is a an agreement on a big deal, Democrats will have to get on board for it to pass. But the 2012 election brought in new Democratic members of the House and Senate who are more liberal and more outspoken, strengthening the left wing of the caucus.

One hundred and seven of the 200 House Democrats signed a letter to Obama threatening to vote “against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security benefits – including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments.”

As if to show their serious Democrats released a budget – their first in four years – that raises taxes a whopping $1.5 trillion while increasing spending by $207 billion relative to the already-unsustainable CBO baseline.

It’s now time for President Obama to lead. Four years ago he warned of the dire impacts of neglecting our deficit. He cautioned that without a solution the debt would erode the economy and threaten the ability of our children to pursue their dreams. His party not only has no interest in addressing the problem, they are determined to make it worse. He should ignore them.