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SOTU Analysis: Obama Lacks Commitment to Spending Restraint

by Brandon Arnold / /

When it come to spending, President Obama’s State of the Union speech gave taxpayers very little to cheer about. But at least there were a few rays of light coming from Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rand Paul (R-KY) in their subsequent responses.

Right off the bat, the President attacked the impending sequester cuts by saying they would "devastate priorities" and "cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs." He claimed that without Congressional action, "about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year." This claim is simply false. The total amount of cuts that would take effect this year is about $85 billion -- the $1 trillion dollar estimate is a cumulative total over the 10 year budget window.

Setting aside the President’s exaggeration, let’s put this 10-year, $1 trillion cut into perspective. CBO’s long term spending projections suggest – despite the "devastating" impact of the sequester – outlays will increase slightly from 22.8 percent of GDP in 2012 to 22.9 percent of GDP in 2023. Keep in mind that during Clinton’s presidency, spending averaged 19.8 percent of GDP. During George W. Bush’s two terms, spending averaged 19.6 percent of GDP.

The sequester will not take us back to the Stone Age. It will not even take us back to the spending levels of Bush or Clinton. The government is still scheduled to spend a staggering $3.5 trillion in 2013. And as Senator Paul pointed out in his Tea Party response, "Even with the sequester, government will grow over $7 trillion over the next decade." Better yet, Senator Paul challenged Democrats on their reluctance to cut domestic spending and Republicans on their reluctance to cut military spending – there can be no sacred cows at a time of staggering deficits. Groups on both sides of the aisle as well as Sen. Paul's colleague Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) have pinpointed billions of dollars in wasteful programs and duplicative spending at the Pentagon that would help meet the sequester goals without weakening our strong defense.

Speaking of Senator Paul, both he and Senator Rubio deserve credit for their support of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. Ratification of a BBA would dramatically change the free-spending culture of Washington and force politicians to make tough spending decisions. By contrast, President Obama called for a "balanced approach" to deficit reduction. This was a thinly veiled plea for higher taxes paired with modest reductions to future spending. Higher taxes should be off the table after last month’s massive tax hike on small businesses and high-wage earners.

Spending cuts should be the sole focus. If Obama could just bring spending down to the levels of the Clinton era, our nation’s finances would be on much firmer ground and future generations might have a chance to avoid the mountains of debt we are currently scheduled to saddle them with. Unfortunately for taxpayers, it seems like the era of big government is far from over.