Feb 242009
Authors: Emily Johnson

The CSU and Fort Collins communities expressed skepticism of President Barack Obama’s priorities Tuesday after he laid out his priority list to a joint session of Congress – some saying the goals are not enough and others that they wouldn’t be easily realized.

Obama told a widely divided government this week that his new budget plan would cut the swelling national debt in half, while bringing much-needed attention to health care, energy and education.

But CSU professors and state lawmakers call the initiatives a “tall order,” citing the mounting economic crisis and a number of new spending promises that they said don’t make sense.

“It will prove to be extraordinarily difficult to reduce the deficit by one half,” said John Straayer, a long-time political science professor. “Right now, the full picture is unclear to me. He has also talked about reforming health care, making some progress on general entitlement reform and more troops to Afghanistan.”

While Straayer lauded the young president’s ambition, he said the hurdles facing Obama’s administration might be too high.

“I’d say the odds are heavily stacked against what is, otherwise, a grand objective,” Straayer said.

And Larimer County Commissioner Steve Johnson, a staunch fiscal conservative, said that in the face of huge partisan opposition and the biggest economic crisis in nearly a century, Obama’s plan is nowhere near realistic.

“Actually I laughed out loud when I heard it,” Johnson said. “It is the height of hypocrisy to add $1 trillion to the debt with a stimulus plan that has the confidence of no one and represents a major increase in government spending, more than the New Deal and the Iraq War put together.”

Kyle Saunders, an associate professor in political science, said Obama must look at the bigger picture, saying the deficit is a much more permanent part of the U.S. economy than the $1.8 trillion that the administration is focusing on.

“The U.S. government has an overall deficit over time (right now around $10.8 trillion), which is an accumulation of many yearly budget deficits from past decades,” Saunders said in an e-mail. “In fiscal 2007 for example, the deficit was around $400 billion.”

Obama made a big commitment to higher education in his speech, citing that about 75 percent of jobs in the U.S. require more than a high school degree. He challenged Americans to complete at least one year of higher education, promising that his administration would provide the necessary resources.

Staff writer Emily Johnson can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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