The American people judge their Presidents by whether they succeed in meeting the central challenges of their Presidency. Americans recognize of course that human nature being what it is, and the world being what it is, that every Chief Executive’s time in office will be marked by both successes and failures, but an unwillingness or inability to take on the most pressing issues of the day is the clearest writing on the wall that there needs to be a change at the helm. This is the case with Barack Obama.
Our nation’s history is replete with examples of Presidents who met the central calling of their time in office and some who have not. George Washington succeeded in pulling thirteen disparate, former colonies of the British Empire together under a new constitutional government. Abraham Lincoln preserved that union and caused it to live up to its founding ideals of securing the God-given right to liberty to all by freeing the slaves. In more recent times, Ronald Reagan brought an America thought to be past its prime back, making it once again the unrivaled leader of the free world, with a growing, vibrant economy second to none. Bill Clinton came to understand during the course of his Presidency that “the era of Big Government [was] over” and went on to preside over an unprecedented era of economic growth.
By way of contrast, James Buchanan did little to keep the nation from sliding towards Civil War, while Jimmy Carter failed to pull America out of the morass created by the aftermath of the Vietnam War, Watergate, and a Great Society, Leviathan-like federal government run amuck.
The central challenges facing Barack Obama were to get the economy growing again following the financial crisis of 2008 and to at least start America on a path towards fiscal sustainability. He stated the centrality of the first task within weeks of taking office, “Look I’ve got four years, if I can’t turn the economy around in three years, I will be looking at a one-term proposition.”
Four years later, despite racking up over $6 trillion in new deficit spending by following the long discredited notion that the government can stimulate economic growth and create jobs, the GDP grew at a paltry 1.74 percent in FY2012, which was lower than each of the previous two years. Meanwhile, the United States has experienced its highest sustained unemployment rate since the Great Depression. The rate ticked up again last month to 7.9 percent and has yet to return to the rate it was when Obama took office. And because millions of Americans are no longer counted in the work force (our labor participation rate is at a 30 year low of 63 percent), the real unemployment rate actually stands at over 11 percent.
Regarding the second challenge of reining in federal spending, Barack Obama has proven to be an unmitigated failure. During his 2008 campaign, he lambasted George W. Bush for running up our National Debt by $4 trillion over eight years calling it “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic.” Obama promised to cut the deficit in half during his first term by going “through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less...” Rather than eliminating programs, he added the largest entitlement program since the Great Society in Obamacare, even as the nation ran unprecedented $1 trillion plus deficits each of the four years of his Presidency.
One has to wonder if adding four trillion dollars to the National Debt in eight years was “irresponsible” and "unpatriotic," how much more is adding six trillion in four? Under Obama the level of federal spending has increased from $3.1 trillion per year when Bush left office to $3.8 trillion last year, a $700 billion increase. Evidence of the President’s lack of seriousness in addressing the matter can be seen in his own budgets. His 2012 budget called for increasing the National Debt another $6.4 trillion over the next ten years, which would take the total over $22 trillion and cause interest payments alone (currently $240 billion per year) to outstrip our entire current defense budget. Not surprisingly, Obama’s budget was defeated 99-0 in the Senate and 414-0 in the House, the same fate which his 2011 budget met. With all this data staring him in the face, the President’s plan is still to go FORWARD.
Mitt Romney recognizes, along with every member of Congress, that Obama’s plan will lead the nation straight into bankruptcy. The Romney-Ryan plan displays political courage by taking head-on the drivers of much of our spending problem: entitlement spending, which accounts for over half of all federal government outlays. Without reform, these programs will be insolvent starting in a few short years. Additionally, their plan calls for comprehensive tax reform including tax cuts, which will make the American economy more competitive in the global marketplace and historically has always led to economic growth, job creation and ultimately higher revenues to the Treasury.
Barack Obama has failed to face the central challenges of his Presidency, and he offers no plan to address them going forward. If history is a guide, the American people will weigh him in the balance and decide it is time for his tenure in office to end.