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White House Still Denies ‘Spending Problem’—Except for Health Care

2:41 PM, Feb 11, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
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After dodging the question just a week ago, White House spokesman Jay Carney's hand was forced today by a statement Nancy Pelosi made yesterday on Fox News Sunday:

"We have to recognize that, which cuts really help us and which cuts hurt our future? And cuts in education, scientific research and the rest are harmful, and they are what are affected by the sequestration," she said on "Fox News Sunday." "So, it is almost a false argument to say we have a spending problem. We have a budget deficit problem that we have to address." 

At a press briefing today, Carney initially seemed to contradict Pelosi (via Politico):

"Of course the president believes that we have a spending problem," Carney said at a White House briefing, adding that the problem "is specifically driven by -- and I think every economist worth, whose insights into this area are worth the paper on which his or her PhD is printed, would tell you that  -- the principle driver, when it comes to spending, of our deficits and debt, are, is health care spending. And that’s just a fact.

By qualifying his answer with "health care spending," Carney simply repeated what he ended up saying a week ago when he first ducked the "spending problem" question [emphasis added]:

MR. CARNEY:  Wendell [Goler, Fox News], I’m not sure what rhetorical game you’re trying to engage in.  What he said -- I mean, what is true is that we have a health care spending problem.  That’s why the President addressed it in the Affordable Care Act.  That’s why he’s addressed it in the proposals he’s put forward, and he has addressed it in discretionary spending cuts and he has put forward more spending cuts.

A search of the White House website turns up very few mentions of "spending problem," and based on the archives of the president's speeches and statements, he has never personally publicly uttered those words.  However, on April 13, 2011, the White House press office released the following statement by Gerald W. McEntee, President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) [emphasis added]:

Gerald W. McEntee, President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), issued the following statement in response to President Obama’s speech on fiscal responsibility:

“President Obama today made clear that everyone needs to sacrifice to lower the federal debt and that we need to look at both sides of the financial ledger.  As Congress works with the President to find solutions, we urge lawmakers to consider the fact that we have a revenue problem, not a spending problem – and to remember how much the working middle class of our nation has already sacrificed.  The surefire way to balance the budget is to create jobs, close corporate tax loopholes and require the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share. We also commend the President for his strong rejection of the Republican budget proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher and to block grant Medicaid.”

Unless the president believes the nation has developed a spending problem in the last 22 months, it seems safe to say that his position has not changed since the White House published McEntee's remarks. The White House firmly believes it has addressed the "spending problem" through the passage of Obamacare. From now on, look for the emphasis to be on increased "revenue," more commonly know as taxes.

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