The President’s budget

Obama shared his budget with Congress today. For the most part, he didn’t address the big problem, which is our ever increasing spending on entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security, choosing instead to nibble around the more politically expedient edges, cutting things like summer Pell grant programs for college students and home heating initiatives for the poor. According to those in the know, he likely won’t address the big ticket items until after his reelection in 2012, when the retirement age will likely be raised and benefits cut for all those but the most needy. In the meantime, however, according to the administration, this budget, if ratified, would cut the federal deficit in half by the end of Obama’s first term. Here, with more detail, is a clip from the Washington Post:

President Obama rolled out a $3.7 trillion budget blueprint Monday that would trim or terminate more than 200 federal programs next year and make key investments in education, transportation and research. The plan is aimed at boosting the nation’s economy while reducing record budget deficits…

However, Obama also would rely heavily on new taxes, to a degree unacknowledged by administration officials in recent days. His budget request calls for well over $1.6 trillion in fresh revenue over the next decade, much of it through higher taxes on the wealthy and businesses.

Households with income of more than $250,000 a year would immediately see new limits on the value of their itemized deductions. And starting in 2013, they would lose the lower tax rates and other breaks that were enacted during the George W. Bush administration and recently extended…

Obama described his education initiatives as “investments in the future” and said he would fight for more funding. His budget proposal includes $40 million for training math and science teachers in elementary, high school and college classrooms.

Although Obama seeks an overhaul of the corporate tax code to lower the 35 percent rate on corporate profits, his budget does not make that costly adjustment. Instead, it offers previous proposals to eliminate tax breaks for corporations that do business overseas, reaping $129 billion in new revenue through 2021…

Despite mention of the rollback of Bush’s tax breaks for the wealthy and the cutting of subsidies for oil companies, people on the left aren’t thrilled. Cutting federal assistance for college tuition, even if it is only for the summer semester, at a time when the gap between the rich and the poor in this country is growing so incredibly large, in their opinion, isn’t a good thing. And, I think it goes without saying that progressives aren’t in favor of cutting the heat off on our most vulnerable citizens. Furthermore, folks on the left aren’t happy that the administration didn’t explore more in the way of military cuts before calling for the elimination of these and other domestic programs. The administration, in their defense, however, would point out that the are calling for $78 billion over five years to be cut from the Pentagon budget.

Just as an aside, I know that we’ve discussed it here before several times, but why wasn’t the deficit an issue when Bush was in the White House, when we were running up these debts in the first place? I know that the deficit is a serious problem that we need to deal with, but the sense of urgency on the part of the right seems disingenuous, and I wish that Obama and the press would do a better job of bringing that fact up. People need to realize that this was the Republican intention all along, to run up huge deficits fighting foreign wars for oil, and then use said deficits as an excuse to privatize Social Security and gut other entitlement programs.

For what it’s worth, the Republicans, for all of their pre-election talk of budget cutting, haven’t exactly been taking the lead these last few weeks. Remember how they told us that they couldn’t be specific during the election, but assured us that we’d get their list of suggested cuts after we put them in office? Well, guess what? So far, from what I can tell, they’ve only floated two ideas… cutting all federal payments for abortions, and cutting the funding of NPR/PBS… neither of which costs the government much in the whole scheme of things. For a group of people who would like nothing more than to destroy the legacies of FDR and LBJ, it seems that they’re terrified of actually saying it out loud for fear of losing their seats.

Oh, and it’s also worth noting, as Bernie Sanders points out, that taxes are lower now than they have been since the 1950’s.

I could go on and on about how taxes should be raised, but it’s Valentine’s Day, and it’s probably not polite to keep typing away as Linette waits downstairs with our box of candy. Here, in my absence, are a few clips from Morning Joe. Enjoy.

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And I haven’t mentioned it here yet, but I think it’s worth noting that, while we were asleep a few nights ago, the reauthorization of the Patriot Act passed. You’ll be interested to know, also, that it passed with the support of many of those Constitution-waving members of Congress put in power by the Tea Party.

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  1. Edward
    Posted February 15, 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    I think the key is shared sacrifice. I don’t, however, see our ruling class sharing in this effort to reduce the budget.

  2. Aaron B.
    Posted February 15, 2011 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Yea, I think progressives might night balk at some the cuts as much if we didn’t just give the rich a tax break and if we were not dumping billions and billions into two wars… It will be interesting to see the Michigan budget. Cut taxes and fill the budget gap… I want to see this one.

  3. Glen S.
    Posted February 15, 2011 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    The right wing propaganda machine has been in overdrive working to convince Americans that the budget deficit is mostly the result of overgrown “entitlement” programs like Medicare and Social Security — when in fact, the bulk of the deficit has been created by nearly decades of misguided tax cuts (especially on large corporations and the super-rich); astronomical bailouts to to-big-to-fail banks here in the U.S., as well as abroad; and a bloated military budget (along with multiple misguided wars).

    Moreover, it is important not to underestimate the language they use: By constantly referring to Medicare and Social Security “entitlement” programs — thus, in the public’s mind, lumping them in with “welfare” programs such as ADC, WIC, food stamps, etc. — the right actively seeks to diminish support for these programs, which REALLY are government-sponsored insurance plans. If you are working, or have worked in the past, the Medicare and Social Security (sometimes called “FICA”) taxes that come out of your check are premiums paid against the PROMISE of benefits when/if you ever need them.

    Unlike many other government programs, analysts generally agree that Social Security will remain “solvent” in its current form until at least 2037, and even then, any deficits in the program will begin and grow slowly enough that they can be dealt with in a reasonable and fair-handed way. Likewise, the tab for Social Security is, essentially, money we as Americans owe back to ourselves or, more accurately, to our grandparents, our parents, and eventually to ourselves — rather than, for instance the huge bank bailouts which have been financed by having the Fed print tons of cheap money and/or borrowing from China.

    So, while I agree we need to tackle the budget deficit, I can imagine about 1,000 other ways I’d begin to do that, rather than to destabilize two of the fundamental building blocks of America’s already meager social safety net.

  4. dragon
    Posted February 15, 2011 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    The priests of all these cults, the singers, shouters, prayers and exhorters of Bootstrap-lifting have as their distinguishing characteristic that they do very little lifting at their own bootstraps, and less at any other man’s. Now and then you may see one bend and give a delicate tug, of a purely symbolical character: as when the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Bootstrap-lifters comes once a year to wash the feet of the poor; or when the Sunday-school Superintendent of the Baptist Bootstrap-lifters shakes the hand of one of his Colorado mine-slaves. But for the most part the priests and preachers of Bootstrap-lifting walk haughtily erect, many of them being so swollen with prosperity that they could not reach their bootstraps if they wanted to. Their role in life is to exhort other men to more vigorous efforts at self-elevation, that the agents of the Wholesale Pickpockets’ Association may ply their immemorial role with less chance of interference.

  5. T Timmons
    Posted February 15, 2011 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    I don’t see how anyone can take the Tea Party seriously now that they sat by quietly as the Patriot Act reauthorization went though. They claim to be all about the sanctity of the constitution, to the point that they forced our elected leaders to read the damned thing on the floor of the House, but then, when a piece of legislation that clearly seeks to infringe on the rights we’re guaranteed under law, they sit on their fucking hands. If it wasn’t clear to everyone before, I hope this demonstrates once and for all that the Tea Party is nothing by a pro-corporate front group, manipulating stupid people for their own benefit. The Tea Party has about as much to do with constitutional law as Fox News has to do with fair and balanced journalism.

  6. 'Ff'lo
    Posted February 15, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    de-FENSE! de-FENSE! de-FENSE! de-FENSE!

  7. Posted February 15, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    We need more tax cuts, and leg monitors for pregnant women. We have seen how tax cuts and forced pregnancies have expanded our economy and made us all rich.

  8. Stephen
    Posted February 15, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Glen that the word “entitlement” plays into the hands of the Republicans, who would like to paint everything as welfare. I don’t think, however, that you can argue that we need to cut spending. I know that Bernie Sanders and others have pointed out that social security can make it another 35 years, but that doesn’t take into account medicare and medicaid. The demographics are irrefutable. The boomers are getting older and living longer. It’s as though we’re steering into an iceberg and no one wants to say anything about it. We have to push back the retirement age, or somehow give people incentives not to retire and collect their social security. It’s not pretty and it’s certainly not going to be easy, given how lazy and greedy the baby boomers are, but it has to happen. So, while I’d like to agree with you Glen that the problem is all on the income side of the balance sheet, I don’t think the evidence supports that. Spending is an issue that needs to be dealt with as well.

    As for this budget, I need to look into the home heating credit a bit more, but , otherwise, I don’t have a problem with it. Would I like to see us pull out our troops, yes, but I don’t see how Obama can do that and win in 2012? Yes, but big changes don’t happen over night. I do think, however, that he’s moving us slowly in the right direction. Funding education, transportation and scientific research is the right thing to do. So, I’m not complaining about the budget.

    Here it is, if anyone wants to read it.

  9. Kim
    Posted February 15, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    From today’s Washington Post.

    Two years ago, the popular new president had Democratic majorities in Congress as he released a sweeping budget plan that introduced a New Deal sequel with dramatic proposals on health care, energy and the economy and a full embrace of government’s central role.

    The Obama of 2011, as demonstrated by Monday’s budget rollout, seems resigned to operating in a far more constrained fashion as he plunges into policy combat for the first time with the GOP’s House majority.

    In declining to embrace the most difficult ideas proposed by his bipartisan deficit commission, such as cutting Social Security benefits, eliminating a home mortgage tax deduction or making structural changes to the tax code, the president deferred tough decisions that many in both parties say are necessary to fix the country’s fiscal problems.

    That apparent tentativeness suggests the man who once said he would rather be a good one-term president than a mediocre two-termer is, in fact, very interested in winning that second term.

    “There is a hopeful interpretation of this strategy: The administration really wants to be involved in those conversations but doesn’t believe that the ground has been adequately prepared for them,” said William Galston, a former Clinton White House policy adviser who is a Brookings Institution scholar, writing on his blog Monday. “And there is a less hopeful interpretation – namely, that the administration doesn’t want those talks to begin in earnest until after the 2012 presidential election.”

  10. Glen S.
    Posted February 15, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Not surprising that the WaPo would cast the latest budget proposal as Obama coming to his senses, or moving to the middle, but I’ve got to ask:

    Can anybody name a single example of how Obama’s “appeasement” strategy for dealing with Tea Party/Republican demagogues has been effective so far?

    Does anybody really think this is all going to turn out any better THIS time around, either?

    Obama was on the right track to begin with (back in 2009), in proposing “a sweeping budget plan that introduced a New Deal sequel with dramatic proposals on health care, energy and the economy and a full embrace of government’s central role.”

    Had he stuck with that plan — and truly fought for it — the Republican, and not the Democrats, would be on the defensive now.

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