Published for the Des Moines Register, August 29, 2012,

As President Obama enters the stretch in his re-election campaign, and with Mitt Romney’s selection of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan as his running mate, it is useful to flash back to 2008 and the points the president made about the growing federal debt on his way to defeating Sen. John McCain in 2008.

The first key concern that candidate Obama raised in 2008 is the overall level of debt caused by federal deficit spending. When he was running for president in 2008, Obama complained that federal debt had increased under President Bush by $4 trillion, about which he said, “That’s irresponsible. It’s unpatriotic.”

Fast forward to 2012, where the total U.S. debt has increased from $10.6 trillion when Obama took office, to more than $15.9 trillion today, an even bigger debt increase, of $5.4 trillion in much less time.

The Ryan budget proposal would directly address the debt that has been exploding because of the record annual federal deficits since 2009. When candidate Obama was campaigning in 2008, the federal deficit for the prior year had been $160 billion. About a month after his inauguration in 2009, President Obama pledged to “cut the deficit we inherited in half by the end of my first term in office,” as the fiscal year 2008 deficit had swelled to $460 billion during the recession, and was growing, particularly after passage of the president’s near-trillion dollar “stimulus” plan.

But he did not cut the deficit in half. Under President Obama, annual federal deficits have reached a record, eclipsing more than $1 trillion in each of the last three years and will do so again this year.

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