Carney Won’t Say if Obama Believes Government Has a Spending Problem

Fred Lucas | January 30, 2013 | 4:22pm EST
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White House spokesman Jay Carney (AP Photo)

( – White House Press Secretary Jay Carney did not deny President Barack Obama, who oversaw a $5.8 trillion increase in the national debt during his first term, believed the country did not have a spending problem.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Jan. 6 about a conversation between Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). In the article, Boehner said Obama told him, “We don’t have a spending problem.” The article quotes Boehner saying Obama told him the problem is limited to health care spending.

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On Wednesday, Fox News reporter Wendell Goler asked Carney, “Boehner also reportedly said the president told him personally this country does not have a spending problem. Did that happen?”

Carney did not give a specific answer.

“Well, you know, there’s a lot of reports about conversations internally,” Carney said. “I don’t have a readout of any of the president’s personal conversations with the speaker or anyone else to provide to you.

“I think anyone who looks at this issue, including the leading deficit hawks in Washington; will tell you that health care spending is the major driver of our deficits in the future. So that’s why the president believed that we needed to address health care spending through the Affordable Care Act, that’s why he has put forward significant entitlement reforms that help address the issue of health care spending going forward,” Carney said.

“So I don’t think there’s anything inconsistent,” Carney continued. “I’m not confirming a conversation. I’m simply saying that it of course is a fact that our health care entitlement spending is something that we need to address.”

Carney went on to say the president has reduced the cost of discretionary spending.

Goler followed, “Given the level of non-defense discretionary spending, does the president believe we do not have a spending problem?”

Carney again did not provide a specific answer.

“Wendell, I’m not sure what rhetorical game you’re trying to engage in,” Carney said. “He said, 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 put forward. And he has addressed it in discretionary spending cuts, and he has said he would put forward more spending cuts. There are spending cuts in his proposal before the speaker of the House. Now, you can take that and make it mean something else, but that would not be honest,” Carney added.

The Wall Street Journal article also said, “The president's insistence that Washington doesn't have a spending problem, Mr. Boehner says, is predicated on the belief that massive federal deficits stem from what Mr. Obama called ‘a health-care problem.’

"Mr. Boehner says that after he recovered from his astonishment—‘They blame all of the fiscal woes on our health-care system’—he replied: ‘Clearly we have a health-care problem, which is about to get worse with ObamaCare. But, Mr. President, we have a very serious spending problem.’ He repeated this message so often, he says, that toward the end of the negotiations, the president became irritated and said: ‘I'm getting tired of hearing you say that.’”

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