As excited as liberals might be about their dream scenario of a second Barack Obama administration, Jonathan S. Tobin writes for Commentary that reality has a funny way of catching up with those who dwell in political fantasyland.

Americans came to accept in the 1980s and ’90s that the welfare state had failed to help the poor and was sinking the country in a moral and fiscal morass. But the problem for resurgent liberalism in 2013 is not just that most Americans already know that big government isn’t the answer to every problem, but that we are also aware that we haven’t the money to pay for the existing entitlements that Washington has promised, let alone any new ones.

President Obama can speak as if the cost of his new health care entitlement will not make it even harder to keep the debt from spiraling out of control and even promise more new costly projects. He can pretend that Medicare and Social Security must remain unchanged without bankrupting the country. He can also ignore the fact that the size not just of the federal government but also of local and state governments is fiscally unsustainable. But reality has a way of interfering with even the sweetest liberal fantasies.

Like it or not, liberalism must now face the problem of how to pay the bill for its big-government agenda. That was something that never occurred to Americans in the heyday of liberal political ascendance from the 1930s to the 1960s, as the thought of such limits was not imaginable. But there is no evading the fact that unless entitlements are reformed the whole system will collapse sometime in the coming decades. Liberals never used to worry about paying for their schemes, but now they must.

That is a problem that responsible politicians are struggling with these days, but it is not one that seems to interest the president very much. He prefers to live in a fantasy world in which Washington can go on taxing and spending with impunity and words like deficit and debt are treated as mere details.