President Obama had an opportunity to give budget and entitlement reform real momentum in his State of the Union address but stopped short. He did what presidents often do and deferred the hard choices to Congress. No doors were slammed, and areas for cooperation remain open. Yet, the task of putting our nation on a sustainable path will be much more difficult absent strong presidential leadership.

The president’s biggest push was to advance an argument he has made many times in the past – that the government is a vital partner in making investments and spurring innovation. The problem is we’ve had countless Sputnik moments in recent decades that have created little more than space junk.

Congress continuously launches programs with great fanfare but rarely tracks or measures their progress. Then, when we want launch a new program we’re surprised when it overlaps with an existing program.

Our government is clogged with duplication. We fund at least 105 programs supporting math and science education, and 69 early education programs administered by nine different agencies. Nine federal agencies spent approximately $18 billion annually to administer 47 separate employment and job training programs. We also have nine separate programs dedicated to researching and developing biofuels.

Fortunately, the president did call for a reorganization of government but we also have to change our expectations of government. Our unreasonable expectations of government have created a $14 trillion debt that is strangling our economy.

With our public and private debt at 90 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) we are already at what leading economists describe as a tipping point. Economists Carmen Reinhart of the University of Maryland and Kenneth Rogoff of Harvard testified to the debt commission that when advanced economies reach this debt burden we lose one point of GDP growth. Each point of GDP we miss amounts to about one million jobs not created.

The best way to spur the kind of innovation we need is for government to get out of the way, reduce our debt burden, and allow capital to flow to the most promising and productive enterprises. The five-year spending freeze the president proposed excludes most of the budget and hardly amounts to serious deficit reduction when we are already running trillion dollar annual deficits.

Locking in current spending levels also locks in dangerous deficits and gives everyone’s sacred cows a new lease on life. Borrowing a trillion dollars to stimulate the economy is stealing from the future, not investing in the future.

The president aptly said we will move forward together or not at all. Unfortunately, Congress has a terrible record of acting on the president’s State of the Union proposals, particularly those dealing with fiscal restraint.

Last year, the president promised to freeze government spending for three years, starting in 2011. If we have a freeze this year it will be because last month Senate conservatives defeated a $1.1 trillion earmark-laden omnibus spending bill many in Congress wanted.

This year, the president repeated his call from last year and proposed adding an extra two years of frozen spending.

We have to go way beyond spending freezes if our children are going to have a prosperous future. My office alone has identified $350 billion in wasteful and duplicative spending in all areas of government, including sacrosanct areas like defense.

We could cut $200 billion from the budget and no one would notice. Every year, the government wastes nearly as much on Medicare and Medicaid fraud ($100 billion) as we’ve spent every year on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ($115 billion). Yet, no one is protesting fraud. We could save billions if Congress and the president would make the effort.

Last year, the president called on Congress to publish all earmark requests on a single Web site. I introduced legislation to do this with my colleagues Claire McCaskill (D-MO), John McCain (R-AZ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Unfortunately, the bill was blocked in committee by the majority party and was not part of Senate Majority Leader Reid’s lame duck agenda.

This year, the president said he would veto bills that contain earmarks. That is a welcome pledge but Majority Leader Reid has suggested he would defy the president and pursue earmarks anyway.

Last year, and in many previous forums, the president pledged to go through the budget line by line, and eliminate wasteful and duplicative programs. The president listed programs for termination in his budget but not a single member of the president’s own party brought his terminations list to the floor for a vote. Not one.

Last year I made many efforts to pay for new spending by reducing spending elsewhere. Many of my proposed offsets came from the president’s terminations list yet my efforts were routinely derided as obstruction. At the end of last year I offered an amendment to pay for a portion of the tax cut bill that drew heavily from the president’s terminations list.

Many in Congress wanted to “pay for” this bill yet the Majority Leader blocked my amendment from receiving a straight up-or-down vote. When I found a way to force a vote all but five members of the president’s own party voted against terminating programs the president said should be cut.

This year, the president also called for cuts but none of those will materialize if Congress does not cooperate.

Finally, last year, the president announced he would issue an executive order creating a bipartisan fiscal commission. He promised the commission would not be “one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we solved a problem.”

This year, the president failed to endorse any of the recommendations proposed by his own commission. He opened the door to tax reform, but declined to endorse reforms to Social Security and Medicare, which constitute most of our debt.

Absent presidential leadership, these initiatives have little chance of success. In fairness to the president, though, we already have a debt commission that can tackle these issues at will. It’s called the United States Congress. Thankfully, a group of bipartisan senators led by Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) are already moving forward to tackle these tough issues.

President Obama was right to call on the nation to expand our moral imaginations in the wake of the Tucson shootings. Yet, the severity of our economic challenges requires us to expand our policy and budgetary imaginations as well.

The hard truth is we’re running out of time. If we don’t make hard choices about spending in the next few years, the international financial community will force even more difficult choices on us. The time for real leadership, hard choices and bold action – on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue – is now.

Sen. Tom Coburn is a Republican from Oklahoma.