The president’s deficit-reduction speech was a flop. Either he does not really get the scale of the problem or he has decided to punt.
Even if we took his plan seriously — and it is hard to — $4 trillion in forgone deficits over twelve years does not amount to very much in the absence of a restructuring of the entitlement programs. This is what Paul Ryan gets and Barack Obama does not: The scale of those unfunded entitlement liabilities is shocking, in the neighborhood of $100 trillion. Obama is talking about eliminating some deductions for 2 percent of U.S. households and squeezing some phantom efficiency out of the Pentagon, but he adamantly refuses to address the three things that absolutely must be addressed: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
Oh, wait, he’s going to have a committee of experts. Never mind, problem solved!