Moments ago, President Obama took to the podium at the White House briefing room for an impromptu press conference on the current budget impasse. During his remarks, he reaffirmed how unserious he is about dealing with the nation’s budget problems.
"I shouldn't have to oversee a process in which Congress deals with last year's budget,” Obama lamented, failing to mention that the current budget could have been finished last year, as it was supposed to, when his party controlled both chambers of Congress.
Then, he was asked for his response to Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposal, which would slash deficits by $4.4 trillion relative to the one that the White House proposed, he declined to respond directly.
“We’ll have time to have a long discussion about next year’s budget, as well as the long-term debt and deficit issues where we’re going to have some very tough negotiations and they’re going to be, I think, very sharply contrasting visions in terms of where we should move the country,” he said, without specifically mentioning Ryan’s plan. “That’s a legitimate debate to have.”
To back up a bit, when Obama entered office in 2009, the United States was already in a fiscal hole. However, Obama said, we couldn’t deal with deficit reduction while the economy was in a state of crisis, so we needed to pass a $862 billion stimulus bill.
Several months later, he said that to get to true entitlement reform, the nation needed to pass health care legislation (current price tag: $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years). Then, when health care legislation passed, he said, he couldn’t tackle entitlements until he heard back from the Fiscal Commission he created. Yet once that commission came out with its recommendations, he ignored them in his own budget, which completely dodged the entitlement question that even he acknowledges is the true driver of the debt crisis.
Now, faced with a looming government shutdown rooted in his own party’s failure to pass a budget, he doesn’t want to oversee the process of averting one, yet because he is dealing with the process, he can’t talk about the nation’s broader budgetary problems.
It seems that there's never a good time for the President to seriously grapple with the nation's most serious challenge.