New Mr. President, Why Won’t You Help Us Avert National Bankruptcy?

October 22, 2012

President Obama, I’d like to follow up on my most recent column and ask you a few more questions, please.

I am assuming you don’t dispute that our nation faces a very serious financial problem, with unfunded liabilities in excess of $100 trillion. I use the word “assuming” because I don’t remember you ever spending much time talking about this problem, which is odd because the very subject haunts so many Americans and makes them fearful for the future of this country.

Yet if you do recognize that these liabilities threaten our nation’s solvency, how is it conceivable that you’ve not made the problem one of your foremost priorities? Yes, you established a bipartisan deficit commission, but you refused to meet with it and you ignored its findings, so that doesn’t get you off the hook.

When Rep. Paul Ryan presented his “Path to Prosperity” and the Republican Congress passed a budget largely along the lines Ryan proposed, you publicly ridiculed Ryan, and your Democratic-controlled Senate summarily rejected the bill.

When Ryan questioned your treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, about entitlements and our national debt, Geithner claimed that the administration stabilized the deficit and debt issues over the next 10 years but admitted that you have no plans for attacking the long-term problem. But what Geithner refers to as stabilization actually amounts to adding approximately $1 trillion per year to our national debt over the next decade, which, incidentally, makes your statement that you would not add a dime to the national debt just outright bizarre — and disturbing.

More troubling, though, than the $10 trillion your budget admits you’d add to the debt over the next 10 years is Geithner’s brazen confession that you have no plan to tackle the explosion of our unfunded liabilities. When Ryan pressed Geithner on that point, Geithner merely responded that he and you didn’t like Ryan’s plan, because it wouldn’t adequately protect seniors and middle-income earners. But as you know, Mr. President, that is also blatantly false. Ryan’s plan carves out special protection for those groups. You must know, unless you are as negligent about informing yourself on Republican ideas you oppose as you are regarding national security matters, that Ryan’s plan would preserve Medicare benefits exactly as they are for those who are now at least 55 years of age. But you keep saying otherwise.

It’s not your dissembling that is most troubling, as bad as it is. It’s that you haven’t bothered to come up with any plan of your own to restructure entitlements. None — not even fragments of a plan. Even when Ryan pressed him, all Geithner could say was that he doesn’t like Ryan’s plan. Ryan said, “Fine. Then present one of your own.” Had more people been watching that disgraceful exchange, you might have plummeted in the polls far sooner.

So where does that leave us? You must acknowledge we face a catastrophic financial calamity if we don’t address entitlements and our ongoing yearly federal spending, yet you’ve contributed nothing to this discussion. You’ve not only failed to show leadership but also obstructed those who are trying, in earnest, to save this nation from national bankruptcy. Indeed, when you appeared on David Letterman’s show, you betrayed a shocking ignorance about the national debt. When Lettermen asked whether it is $10 trillion (it is $16 trillion), you brushed him off, saying you didn’t know the precise figure. I’ll say you don’t. Not even a clue — because you obviously don’t care.

Instead, you said that we face a long-term problem but that “we don’t have to worry about it short term.” How can you be so casual about this when experts have warned that we could go the way of Greece within two or three years unless we get the problem under control? How can you be so dismissive when our nation’s credit rating, under your watch, has been downgraded already?

We face an existential threat to our nation, and you not only have insisted on ignoring it and blocking solutions to it but also aren’t even addressing it in your presidential campaign — and the media are letting you get away with it.

I believe that you are acting more like Mr. Magoo than you are the president of the United States, because your whole purpose for being in office, apart from ego gratification, is to fundamentally transform America. You know you cannot achieve that aspiration unless you keep spending money recklessly regardless of how much more you add to the debt.

Others have gone so far as to argue that your goal is precisely to destroy the nation financially. Whether or not that is your goal, there is no longer any way people can call those making the claim unreasonable. For regardless of your intent, you are bankrupting us and have no intention of reversing yourself.