President Obama and the Magic Dime

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 12 2013 7:18 PM

President Obama and the Magic Dime

President Obama in his big health care speech to Congress, September 9, 2009:

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

First, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits -- either now or in the future. I will not sign it if it adds one dime to the deficit, now or in the future, period. And to prove that I'm serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don't materialize. Now, part of the reason I faced a trillion-dollar deficit when I walked in the door of the White House is because too many initiatives over the last decade were not paid for -- from the Iraq war to tax breaks for the wealthy. I will not make that same mistake with health care. 
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President Obama in his budget message to Congress, a year ago:

I also made sure that this plan covered the cost of the American Jobs Act—a set of bipartisan, commonsense proposals designed to put more people back to work, put more money in the pockets of the middle class, and do so without adding a dime to the deficit at a time when it was clear that global events were slowing the economic recovery and our ability to create more jobs

And from tonight:

Let me repeat – nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime. It’s not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth.

He loves that dime! He also, so far, has been right about this. The Affordable Care Act cut the deficit. The American Jobs Act was paid for if it every part of it passed. (Only a small tax credit portion ended up passing.) Tonight, too, you'll see this strange tension where Obama points out that higher revenues would allow him to pay for new spending, and where Republicans rebut that and argue that supply-side tax cuts would do the trick.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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