In a speech yesterday on America’s fiscal crisis, President Barack Obama invoked the legacy of Abraham Lincoln and said, “through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves.” Yet since his presidency began, Barack Obama has proven that what he cannot do very well for himself or for the nation is provide even a modicum of leadership on out-of-control government spending.

To fill that vacuum, Americans rose up in 2010 and elected new representatives to steer the nation toward fiscal sanity. Now, in the 9th inning, the same president who handed his mantle of leadership to a “fiscal commission” has responded to the call for reform by doing what he knows best – slinging arrows with a partisan, poison-tipped speech, proposing higher taxes and slashing America’s defense spending to dangerously low levels.

The president’s speech purported to address a very real problem – a growing $14.3 trillion deficit. It’s a problem that would only be exacerbated by the president’s 2012 budget, released just two months ago, which offers more spending, higher taxes and $9 trillion in new debt, but does nothing to reform entitlements.

Rather than digging us out of a hole, that budget would send America further underground and into the red, with deficits averaging $952 billion over eight years (more than double the $415 billion average during President George W. Bush’s term in office) and exploding government spending that’s on its way past $35,000 per household within the next decade. The problem has reached such a level that the International Monetary Fund weighed in on Tuesday and urged the United States to develop serious measures to reduce the budget deficit.

Since the president would not act, others came forward. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) proposed a “Path to Prosperity” which attempts to solve the twin crises of spending and debt through real spending reductions and reforms – not new taxes or higher rates. And it is that plan which forced President Obama to change course and reluctantly broach the subject of our nation’s endless spending spree. But unfortunately for America, the president didn’t offer a thoughtful response that would live up to the seriousness of the challenge America faces. Instead he invited Chairman Ryan to the speech, only to insult him. As The Wall Street Journal observed:

Mr. Obama did not deign to propose an alternative to rival Mr. Ryan’s plan, even as he categorically rejected all its reform ideas, repeatedly vilifying them as essentially un-American. “Their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America,” he said, supposedly pitting “children with autism or Down’s syndrome” against “every millionaire and billionaire in our society.” The President was not attempting to join the debate Mr. Ryan has started, but to close it off just as it begins and banish House GOP ideas to political Siberia.

On top of attempting to banish the Ryan plan to “political Siberia,” the president trotted out policies that would send the United States to a cold, desolate future of its own. Those policies include higher taxes on savers, investors, and job creators. It would also bring cuts in military spending totaling $400 billion, which Heritage’s Mackenzie Eaglen notes have already begun and are coming at the expense of national security. (Cleverly, the president attempts to redefine those cuts as “Security Spending.”) And as for entitlements? Don’t count on serious solutions from the president on those issues, either. Heritage economist J.D. Foster writes:

The surest sign that the President is not serious is that he sets as his defining goal a steady reduction in government debt as a share of our economy beginning in the second half of this decade. In case anyone is curious, that would be beginning in 2016, the last year of the second term the President aspires to gain. The deficit reduction path needs to begin today, not five years from now.

In a new poll from the Associated Press, voters say they prefer spending cuts to tax hikes by a 62-29 margin. President Obama would do well to step out from behind the podium and hear some common sense from the American people. Spending is the problem, cutting it is the solution. Higher taxes, decimating our defense and playing partisan politics are not the answers.

Quick Hits

  • Defying economists’ forecasts, new claims for unemployment benefits shot up last week above the 400,000 level.
  • Mr. Walker goes to Washington today. The Wisconsin governor who took on public sector unions is testifying before Congress on reducing state budget deficits.
  • Iran is secretly helping Syria’s president put down pro-democracy demonstrations by providing gear to suppress crowds and assistance blocking Internet and cell phones, according to U.S. officials.
  • Congress is expected to vote today on the FY 2011 budget deal. The Hill reports that the funding bill is expected to pass.
  • Watch where you step! Hotels, restaurants and airlines must now accommodate mini-horses as service animals, according to new government regulations.