One, by President Obama, sought to use the State of the Union address to deliver a political message. The other, by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, actually addressed the state of the union. Obama mostly ignored the reality of the federal government running up the largest annual deficit and biggest national debt -- $1.5 trillion and $14 trillion, respectively -- in American history. Instead, Obama talked at length about adding to the deficit and debt by spending -- excuse us, "investing" -- more billions on things like trains hardly anybody will ride and developing renewable resources that will cause energy costs to "necessarily skyrocket."
Obama's primary strategy for bringing down the deficit and debt was a five-year freeze in federal spending, a recommendation that seems akin to a doctor reassuring a critically injured patent in surgery that the rate at which he is bleeding to death has been stabilized. Otherwise, the Obama speech seemed mainly designed to leave the impression that the president got the message from last November's election, without actually agreeing to do what voters clearly demanded -- which is cut federal spending, get the debt under control, and stop using government red tape to stifle job creation and economic growth.
In his response to Obama, Ryan focused bluntly and factually on the critical issue facing the nation, saying "a few years ago, reducing spending was important. Today, it's imperative. Here's why: We face a crushing burden of debt. The debt will soon eclipse our entire economy and grow to catastrophic levels in the years ahead. On this current path, when my three children -- who are now 6, 7 and 8 years old -- are raising their own children, the federal government will double in size and so will the taxes they pay. No economy can sustain such high levels of debt and taxation. The next generation will inherit a stagnant economy and a diminished country." Official Washington now must decide whether to heed the voters and reverse the massive expansion of federal spending, debt and regulation that leaders of both major political parties have encouraged for far too long.
Ryan correctly noted that "when government takes on too many tasks, it usually doesn't do any of them very well. It's no coincidence that trust in government is at an all-time low now that the size of government is at an all-time high." Obama and his Democratic congressional allies, Ryan added, "have shown, by their actions, that they believe government needs to increase its size and its reach, its price tag and its power." Continuing down that path will lead to disaster. Now Ryan and his Republican colleagues must do what they were elected to do, and not just talk about it.