A missed opportunity to lead

Last year, House Republicans put forward a budget that demonstrated leadership and was a bold solution to take us off the path to decline and put us firmly on the path to prosperity. No doubt, this budget made tough choices. However, we cannot avoid making tough budgetary choices.          

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In stark contrast, however, stand President Obama’s budgets. Instead of leadership, the pages of his budgets have been filled with little more than political rhetoric and attempts to avoid putting forward solutions. In his 2010 budget, President Obama outsourced responsibility for leadership to the Bowles/Simpson Fiscal Commission. In fact, President Obama’s budget last year was so devoid of leadership that it failed to receive one single vote in the United States Senate, and was abandoned a few months later by the President himself. As a result of his abdication of leadership, President Obama’s budgets have not only left us on the ruinous path to decline that we’re currently on but accelerated our journey down it. 

With his 2013 budget, I was hoping that President Obama would demonstrate leadership by putting forward a serious budget with real solutions. As Alice Rivlin, a former Director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Clinton Administration, said, “the president is widely seen on the side-line…his strong leadership is needed to save the country from a dismal economic future.”

I wasn’t expecting President Obama to propose a budget that I would totally agree with, but I was looking for it to include a few elements I consider critical. First, I was looking for President Obama to call on the House and Senate to pass a budget resolution. The Senate hasn’t passed one since 2009, and Senator Harry Reid has indicated that the Senate may not pass one in 2012. As a former Democratic House Budget Committee chairman said, “If you can’t budget, you can’t govern.”

I was also hoping to see President Obama lay out a serious plan for reforming Medicare and Social Security. Last year, he and his fellow Democrats falsely accused the House Republican proposal of “ending Medicare as we know it.” While I believe the president is entitled to disagree with our proposal, he is not entitled to simply sit on the sideline and demagogue our plan while having none of his own. How can House Republicans negotiate with President Obama when he doesn’t have a proposal of his own to bring to the table?               

Lastly, I was looking for President Obama’s budget to include serious solutions, not more political rhetoric. While it makes great political theatre on the campaign trail, the “tax the rich” solution for our fiscal woes is nothing more than that. You cannot both honor the president’s pledge not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000 and solve our nation’s fiscal problems. If the president wants to raise taxes, he needs to be honest about the fact that solving our problems on the tax side will require taxes to go up on small businesses and middle-income Americans.          

Unfortunately, the budget President Obama submitted was more of the same abdication of leadership and political rhetoric of years past. It was something you’d expect from a president more concerned about his reelection than the next generation. 

Rep. Canseco (R-Texas) is a strong advocate of fiscal responsibility in the House of Representatives and a member of the House Financial Services Committee.