By Victor Davis Hanson
We are still borrowing more than $1 trillion a year. Barack Obama has added more than $5 trillion to the national debt in his first term alone. Such massive borrowing is unsustainable. Someone somehow at some time has to pay it back.
Obama would agree. He once alleged that George W. Bush’s much smaller deficits were “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic.” Obama himself vowed to cut the budget deficit in half by the end of his first term. Instead, Obama’s annual deficits have never gone below $1 trillion.
Three ways to establish a long-term trajectory toward a balanced budget were under discussion. One was to adopt the proposals of the nonpartisan Simpson-Bowles Commission, appointed by Obama. The commission offered a balanced mix of tax reform and greater revenues, along with cuts in federal spending. But the president was not interested. The commission’s findings now seem stale just two years after they were issued.
Another way would have been to adopt the Bill Clinton–Newt Gingrich compromise formula of the 1990s that balanced the budget through a series of across-the-board tax hikes and spending cuts. But while the administration talked grandly of a return to higher “Clinton-era tax rates,” it never mentioned the necessary second half of the old equation — “Clinton-era spending cuts.” That balanced solution is dead, too.