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San Diego Union Tribune: Obama could use a little tough love

Published: January 14, 2013

IMAGINE you had a dear friend with a huge family and lots of responsibilities. For three years in a row, this friend blithely spent 40 percent more than he earned, and more and more of his household budget was going solely to pay the interest and only the interest on his credit-card debt, his car loan and his mortgage. His credit rating was plunging, and many of his family members were deeply worried about the future.

What would you do if you were a close friend of this individual? There is a good chance you'd gather a group of those close to him and stage an intervention. If you don't change the arc of his life, bad things are going to happen, and not just to him but to his family.

But what do you do if this individual is the president, and the family he has great responsibility for is the United States of America?

This analogy comes to mind after a series of reports giving inside details on the recent “fiscal cliff” negotiations. All indicated Barack Obama has no intention of seeking broad spending cuts going forward as part of any grand bargain in which Republicans accept higher taxes and Democrats accept leaner government. While the president is interested in revising the formulas that determine automatic annual cost-of-living increases for the tens of millions of Americans receiving entitlements — to make the formulas more accurate and less costly — that appears to be his sole constructive contribution to the spending side of the live-within-our-means policy debate.

Instead, according to House Speaker John Boehner, Obama told him during budget negotiations that “we don't have a spending problem,” just a problem with health-care costs. When Boehner repeatedly continued to cite spending as a huge problem, according to an interview the speaker gave The Wall Street Journal, our annoyed president said, “I'm getting tired of hearing you say that.”

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