PRESIDENT Obama's second inaugural address offered few memorable words. But two lines in sequence jumped out at us nonetheless, because the second one contradicts the first: “We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit,” Obama said. “But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.”
This is essentially Obama's way of telling everyone what they want to hear. “Lord, give us all chastity — but not yet!” Throughout his presidency, Obama has tried to establish himself rhetorically as a transformational leader taking on the nation's tough problems — especially America's mounting debt. In the meantime, he has consistently dodged these problems — again, especially the debt.
In his first inaugural speech four years ago, Obama condemned “our collective failure to make hard choices.” On Feb. 23, 2009, just days after signing his $800 billion economic stimulus into law, Obama hosted a “fiscal responsibility summit” at the White House in which he pledged “to cut the deficit we inherited by half by the end of my first term in office.” He said, “This will not be easy. It will require us to make difficult decisions and face challenges we've long neglected.”
In reality, Obama avoided nearly all tough choices on deficits. His health care law raised taxes and cut Medicare, but only in order to finance a new entitlement that will cost $1.7 trillion over the next decade. In 2010, Obama appointed a deficit reduction commission but ignored its recommendations and used them only to deflect questions about deficits. For instance, in July 2010 Obama insisted, “We have put forward a fiscal commission that is then going to examine how do we deal with these broader structural deficits. So this isn't just an empty promise. We've already started taking steps to deal with it.”