When President Obama was sworn into office in January 2009, the national debt stood at $10.6 trillion, and Democrats controlled the Senate and the House. Free to do whatever they wanted, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) passed ObamaCare into law, as well as a massive “stimulus” package with nearly $1 trillion in new spending. The president happily signed them both. Debt exploded – and the public took notice. In 2010 and 2012, Americans elected a Republican majority in the House.
Campaigning for president in 2008, Barack Obama had pretended to care about government spending increasing the debt. “[T]o take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt …. That’s irresponsible,” he said. “It’s unpatriotic.” Chastened after the 2010 election, he returned to feigning concern about America’s finances. “If we keep on spending more than we take in, it’s going to cause serious damage to our economy,” he told a crowd in April 2011. He also said that “all this rising debt will cost us jobs and damage our economy.” All true, but his actions didn’t match his rhetoric. Each of the budgets he proposed would have increased spending to new heights and never balanced – ever. Not in 10 years, not in 20 years. Never.
Today, the national debt stands at $17.7 trillion, an increase of $7.1 trillion in the five and a half years of the Obama presidency. Over the past three years, House Republicans have worked to save taxpayer dollars and prevent the debt from growing even more, banning earmarks, winning enactment of significant spending cuts, and consistently offering budgets that address the true drivers of our country’s debt and preserve programs like Medicare and Medicaid for future retirees.
It’s a start, and it certainly wasn’t easy. Democrats like Harry Reid fought against it every step of the way. Leader Pelosi once claimed – with a straight face – that “there’s no more cuts to make.” By 2013, President Obama was telling anyone who’d listen that America doesn’t have a spending problem. These days, Democrats are all denial, all the time.
Yesterday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) provided a healthy dose of reality. Despite the fact that the federal government will collect a record amount of money from taxpayers this year, the CBO estimates the budget deficit will still top $500 billion. That’s a bigger shortfall than any of President George W. Bush’s deficits.
As USA Today recently editorialized, “the long-term budget outlook remains very scary.” It’s clear that there’s more work to do when it comes to reigning in spending and balancing the budget. There’s simply no denying it.
Perhaps this is why a strong majority – 83 percent – of registered voters believe the President and Congress should spend more time addressing the national debt, according to a recent survey by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. A Rasmussen poll found that 57 percent of likely voters “think thoughtful spending cuts should be considered in every federal program.”
House Republicans have made the American people’s priorities our priorities, so we’re going to continue to stand up for smarter, sustainable government. Earlier this year, we passed three pro-growth budget reform bills and a balanced budget that would stop spending money our country doesn’t have, root out waste, and begin to pay down our debt. Of course, Senate Democrats blocked these bills, and the White House denounced them as extreme – an ironic criticism coming from those who believe we can just keep running up our national credit card bill.
President Obama used to have a different word for that.