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Tom Murse

Obama's Biggest Promise in the 2013 State of the Union Speech

By February 13, 2013

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President Barack Obama speaksPresident Barack Obama talked about a lot of things in his ambitious 2013 State of the Union speech: Providing preschool for every child, raising the minimum wage for every worker, bolstering America's middle class, bringing U.S. troops back home from overseas and curbing gun violence, to name a few.

So what was Obama's boldest statement of the night?

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Vowing to do everything he wants to do without adding to the nation's annual budget deficits.

"Nothing I'm proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime," Obama said. "It's not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth."

So, can the president really tackle climate change, get every 4-year-old from low-income households into preschool and spend $50 billion on repairing the nation's crumbling network of roads and bridges without adding to the deficit?

Conservative analysts say no.

"Although he said his agenda items would not increase the deficit, he spent far more time detailing new spending initiatives than how they would be 'paid for," said Demian Brady, director of research for the National Taxpayers Union Foundation.

The group estimated Obama's 2013 State of the Union proposals would cost at least $83.4 billion and as much as $100.4 billion.

So how does Obama propose paying for all of his ideas?

Cue the tape:

"On Medicare, I'm prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission. Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs.  The reforms I'm proposing go even further.  We'll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors.

"We'll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn't be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital - they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive.  And I am open to additional reforms from both parties, so long as they don't violate the guarantee of a secure retirement.  Our government shouldn't make promises we cannot keep - but we must keep the promises we've already made.

"To hit the rest of our deficit reduction target, we should do what leaders in both parties have already suggested, and save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and well-connected.  After all, why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education and Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks?  How is that fair?  How does that promote growth?"

So do Obama's numbers add up? Can he achieve his 2013 State of the Union goals without adding to the deficit?

We'll see.

[President Barack Obama deliver the State of the Union speech in 2013/Getty Images News]

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