Commentary: Obama's speech offered hope but no price tags

February 25, 2009 

This editorial appeared in The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The tone was strong, the attitude determined, the audience in the House chamber for the most part receptive.

If the American people were looking for hope Tuesday night, they got it.

If they were looking for inspiration, they got that also, in the remembrances of a people who have bonded together, hunkered down and overcome great perils in the past.

If they were looking for an outline of the Obama administration’s short-term domestic agenda, it was there, too. New initiatives in energy and education, a pledge to begin the hard work of reforming healthcare, more pay and better benefits for the nation's fighting men and women.

All that was missing from President Barack Obama's joint address to Congress was specifics.

Perhaps that's too much to expect in a speech like this. State of the Union addresses – and that's really what this was – historically are thick with soaring rhetoric and sparse on hard information.

After the pundits tire of their line-by-line parsing and the instant polls tally the temperament of John Q. Public for what was heard, Obama will have to explain how a nation mired in two wars and an ever-spiraling economic crisis – and saddled with a $1.5 trillion deficit – will pay for the litany of expanded domestic programs that was rolled out on Tuesday night.

On Monday, the new president said that as a nation "we cannot and will not sustain deficits like these without end. . . . We cannot simply spend as we please and defer the consequences."

Twenty-four hours later, the same president outlined aggressive new initiatives with no dollar signs attached.

The price tag that Americans are familiar with – the $787 billion affixed to the recently approved stimulus package – represents borrowed money.

And still the young president pledges to cut in half the $1.5 trillion deficit by the end of his first term.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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