POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jan 26, 2011
WASHINGTON » The ledger did not appear to be adding up last night when President Barack Obama urged more spending on one hand and a spending freeze on the other.
Obama spoke ambitiously of putting money into roads, research, education, efficient cars, high-speed rail and other initiatives in his State of the Union speech. He pointed to the transportation and construction projects of the last two years and proposed "we redouble these efforts." He coupled this with a call to "freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years."
But Obama offered far more examples of where he would spend than where he would cut, and some of the areas he identified for savings are not certain to yield much if anything.
For example, he said he wants to eliminate "billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies." Yet he made a similar proposal last year that went nowhere.
A look at some of Obama's statements last night and how they compare with the facts:
OBAMA: Tackling the deficit "means further reducing health care costs, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which are the single biggest contributor to our long-term deficit.
Health insurance reform will slow these rising costs, which is part of why nonpartisan economists have said that repealing the health care law would add a quarter of a trillion dollars to our deficit."
THE FACTS: The idea that Obama's health care law saves money for the government is based on some arguable assumptions.
To be sure, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated the law will slightly reduce red ink over 10 years. But the office's analysis assumes that steep cuts in Medicare spending, as called for in the law, will actually take place. Others in the government have concluded it is unrealistic to expect such savings from Medicare. Congress has shown itself sensitive to pressure from seniors and their doctors, and there is little reason to think that will change.
OBAMA: Vowed to veto any bills sent to him that include "earmarks," pet spending provisions pushed by individual lawmakers.
THE FACTS: House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has promised that no bill with earmarks will be sent to Obama in the first place. Republicans have taken the lead in battling earmarks, while Obama signed plenty of earmark-laden spending bills when Democrats controlled both houses.
OBAMA: "I'm willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year: malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits."
THE FACTS: Obama has expressed openness before to this prominent Republican proposal, but it has not come to much. It was one of several GOP ideas that were dropped or diminished in the health care law.