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Obama Needs Navy SEALs to Target Budget Next

Author: Amity Shlaes, Former Hayek Senior Fellow for Political Economy
May 19, 2011


Obama pulls another Osama. He signs the orders. The operation succeeds. This time the target is another great enemy: the federal debt.

Or so, at least, runs the national daydream.

That Americans indulge themselves in such quirky fantasies reflects a desperation about reality. The reality is that in domestic affairs, President Barack Obama moves not like a leader who nailed Osama bin Laden, but like a passive-aggressive drill sergeant. He is tactical rather than strategic, partisan rather than statesmanlike. He exploits outreach efforts by Republicans to attack their vulnerabilities.

When he announced his new budget plan in April the president wasted time attacking Republicans for helping “billionaires and millionaires.” The Obama plan promised to address the ratio of the national debt to the economy. But it cynically postponed the start of that project to an election year, 2014. Such details lent credence to House Speaker John Boehner's allegation that the plan amounts to “a political broadside from our commander-in-chief.”

The problem, however, is greater than a specific executive. George W. Bush too worked tactically, sacrificing a long-term national commitment to reducing entitlements to a short-term plan for election victory that included expanding Medicare to cover prescription drugs.

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