The president only mentioned Iraq and Afghanistan towards the end of his hour-long speech, and uttered the familiar shibboleth of “support the troops” as an applause line to gain the longest sustained ovation of the evening. Neither Rep. Paul Ryan, speaking for the Republicans, or Rep. Michelle Bachman, speaking for the Tea Party movement, mentioned these wars in their remarks at all.
Most of the president’s speech was a classic example of elected officials speaking out of both sides of their mouth. While on the one hand calling for a freeze in federal non-security, discretionary spending, the president also called for increased federal spending for a litany of non-security, discretionary items ranging from roads to high speed Internet. Except he doesn’t call it spending money, he calls it investment.
Incredibly, President Obama actually made light of the war on civil liberties being perpetrated by the Transportation Security Agency. He said that an “investment” in high-speed rail could soon make train travel faster than flying, and “without the pat down.” What was particularly disturbing about this quip was that it received laughs and applause from both Democrats and Republicans in the chamber.
Even though he acknowledged that ballooning federal spending and the skyrocketing national debt were unsustainable, President Obama warned against making “mindless cuts.” He admitted that his proposed spending freeze would only affect 12 percent of the budget. Then he said that in order to really tackle the deficit he would have to cut excessive spending “wherever we find it,” and even mentioned the big ticket items in the federal budget: Social Security, Medicare and Defense. But then he backed away from offering any meaningful action, preferring to talk about reducing health care costs, eliminating tax breaks and closing tax loopholes, and making government more affordable, more competent and more efficient.
President Obama said that the war in Iraq was “coming to and end,” even though a few months ago he said that the war was over. He also said, “we will begin” to bring troops home from Afghanistan in July, even though he has actually sent more troops there since taking office. That reminded me of a used care salesman who raises the price of a car before putting it on sale.
Clearly, neither the president, the Republicans or the so-called Tea Party Republicans have the courage to handle the truth and propose the one action that is absolutely essential if we are to avert an economic catastrophe. We must stop the spending on the 60 to 75 percent of the federal budget that cost the most - defense and entitlements.
We can’t avoid economic disaster by slowing spending, lowering spending, cutting spending, or freezing spending. Nor can we nickel-and-dime our way out of the crisis. We must stop spending on items that cost the most. And, we should begin to stop the spending by stopping all wars and bringing the troops home.
R. Lee Wrights is a writer and political activist living in Texas. He is the co-founder and editor of the free speech online magazine Liberty For All. Lee is considering seeking the Libertarian Party presidential nomination. Contact Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org.