If the surest sign of objectivity is pissing off both sides, then President Obama’s new budget proposal is about as objective as they come.
In the eternal struggle between Democrats who want to raise revenue by increasing taxes on the wealthy and Republicans who want to cut spending on entitlement programs, the president introduced a budget that does some of both. While there is little expectation that the president’s budget could pass both chambers of Congress, it is seen as an effort to bridge the huge chasm between the budget proposed by the House, which is made up almost entirely on spending cuts, and the Senate budget, which includes hefty tax increases for the wealthy.
To show that he was effective in upsetting both sides, Sen. Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats, yesterday protested Obama’s proposal to slow the growth of Social Security payments made to seniors and the disabled, while Republicans were lashing the White House for putting out a proposal that doesn’t balance the budget over time.
Jay Carney, Obama’s spokesman, called president’s budget “good faith,” with the purpose of actually getting a deal with a Congress where Republicans remain in control of the House.
“Democrats and allies understand that this budget the president will put forward tomorrow is not his ideal budget,” Carney said yesterday during a briefing with reporters. “It is a document that recognizes that to achieve a bipartisan solution to our budget challenges we need to make tough choices.”
Carney said the president has already made moves to reduce the deficit by $2.5 trillion. He said if Obama’s budget proposal were implemented, the deficit reduction over a 10-year period would be $4.3 trillion. While the country’s debt totals about $16 trillion, Carney said the president’s proposal would meet economists demands to “stabilize” the debt.
“We need to move forward through a budget process that ensures that we protect the middle class; provide ladders of opportunity to those who aspire to the middle class; that we invest in education, and infrastructure, and innovation; and that we, as part of a broad budget approach, continue to reduce our deficit,” Carney said. “For every dollar in revenue, more than $2 of it comes in spending cuts.”
The Senate recently passed a budget that would raise taxes by $1 trillion and the Republican-controlled House approved a measure that would balance the budget in 10 years by making deep cuts to current spending.
Obama is scheduled to host a White House dinner with 12 Senate Republicans Wednesday evening to talk about a variety of matters, including the budget.
But many liberals were contemptuous of the president’s gambit, asking whether he is a progressive at all. The president is trying to argue that these changes to Medicare and Social Security aren’t made now, they will overwhelm the budget in future years—an argument that is supported by a growing faction of liberals and moderate Democrats. Liberal and labor groups began protesting the president’s budget outside the White House on Tuesday and, on Wednesday, complaining on conference calls with reporters.
While Democratic leaders were mainly silent, in private they expressed worry that Obama would make overtures to Republicans without the promise of getting anything in return, such as higher taxes on the wealthy and a commitment to job-creating investments for public works, education and research—his budget calls for $166 billion over 10 years for repair and construction of roads and rails and to start an infrastructure bank to provide seed money for public works; aid to states to keep teachers and first responders on payrolls; and job training money. These are all proposals Republicans have blocked since 2011.
“The American people deserve better than what we’ve been seeing: a shortsighted, crisis-driven decision making like the reckless across-the-board spending cuts that are already hurting a lot of communities out there, cuts that economists predict will cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs during the course of this year,” President Obama said in the Rose Garden as his budget was released.
“For years, the debate in this town has raged between reducing our deficits at all costs and making the investments necessary to grow our economy,” he said. “And this budget answers that argument, because we can do both. We can grow our economy, and shrink our deficits.”