Obama used his second Inaugural Address today to spell out his big ideas for his second term.He hit on some big liberal ideas: Gay rights, gun control, climate change, and immigration.
The real bombshell was what he didn’t include, however.
He could have included a serious paragraph about a “Grand Bargain” to reduce the deficit. It would have been seen as a ballast to anchor the liberalism, and an olive branch to the GOP.
Instead, he only addressed it in a half-hearted manner. In fact, he almost mocked the idea of deficit reduction.
He declared that, “We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit.” This is Barack Obama, bold leader speaking (with an extra twist of irony given that the signature legislative accomplishment of his first term was supposedly aimed at containing the growth of health care costs). Then, he 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.” Translation: he isn’t going to do anything to seriously reform Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, and wants more economic stimulus spending, too. So, within a breath of calling for hard choices, he rejected the need for them…
Prior to today, there had been some talk that Obama would pursue deficit reduction, as part of his legacy project in his second term.
But it’s pretty clear that ship has sailed. During the debt ceiling fight and the fiscal cliff fight, Obama was (widely reportedly) willing to make cuts to entitlements in exchange for higher taxes from Republicans. They never found that deal.
It’s still possible that something big could come out of the upcoming sequestration/budget battle, but most likely, Obama is done on the entitlement, spending front.
And realistically, this may be the end of serious entitlement talk for a long while. Entitlement cutting had appeal with gigantic, trillion dollar deficits (even though entitlements were not driving said deficits). But as the deficit shrinks, the broader appetite for addressing any of these issues will fade.
Beyond that, Obama was the natural President to make changes to these programs, in a Nixon-to-China sort of way. The opportunity might not come again.
SEE ALSO: Obama’s big, liberal inaugural speech >
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