National Debt Increases by About $100 Million During the State of the Union Address

At the moment that President Obama began speaking last night, I recorded the tally on the National Debt Clock. It was 14 trillion, 74 billion, 755 million dollars. (The thousands speed by too quickly to register.) The moment that the president ceased speaking, I checked again: 14 trillion, 74 billion, 853 million dollars. So during the president’s speech, the national debt rose by $98 million.

Yet President Obama offered no serious proposals for reducing spending or debt. To the contrary, he talked about new spending he’d like to see. He offered only the occasional and unserious rhetorical nod to fiscal prudence: Having raised non-defense domestic discretionary spending by 24 percent on his watch, and by 84 percent when including his “stimulus," he proposed to freeze it there — at that new, much higher, rate. That’s not exactly how you make a dent in a $14 trillion shortfall.

Even the Washington Post editorial board (under the headline “A disappointing State of the Union address”) writes:

President Obama entered office promising to be a different kind of politician — one who would speak honestly with the American people about the hard choices they face and would help make those hard calls.  Tuesday night's State of the Union Address would have been the moment to make good on that promise. He disappointed.

The Post continues, “Maybe some members of Congress will display the courage the president has lacked. Maybe Mr. Obama, in the budget he proposes next month, will grapple more realistically with the hard choices than he did Tuesday night. But even if he does, how can he expect public support if he hasn't made the case?  From the man who promised to change Washington, it seemed all too drearily familiar.”

It’s drearily familiar, indeed. If there are two consistent themes of the Obama presidency, they are these:  His talk and his actions too often bear little resemblance to one another; and his enthusiasm for spending other people’s money continues unabated.

In fact, President Obama’s deficits have outpaced those of President Bush by more than $1 trillion a year — a truly staggering figure, given that President Bush was hardly a pinchpenny. Obama blames the economy, but his average deficit has outpaced the average deficit during the Great Depression by more than ten-to-one in inflation-adjusted dollars, and by more than three-to-one even as a percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP). In fact, in inflation-adjusted dollars (though not as a percentage of GDP), Obama’s deficits have even exceeded — doubled! — the highest deficit during World War II. Such seemingly impossible tallies require serious dedication to the spending arts.