President Obama today will submit a $3.7 trillion budget for the coming fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, 2014. It will attract lots of attention from news outlets, pundits and politicians but it will probably never see the light of day.
“Republicans have been carpet bombing this document even before it comes out and it certainly doesn’t look like...it has much of a future,” says Olivier Knox, chief Washington correspondent for Yahoo! News.
The Obama budget proposes to slash $1.8 trillion from the deficit over 10 years with cuts in Social Security and Medicare, higher pension contributions by federal workers, limits on tax breaks for upper-income Americans and increased fees on telecom companies, airlines and more.
It has something for almost everyone to hate and not much for anyone to like.
“Republicans hate this budget," Knox tells The Daily Ticker. "Liberal Democrats or independent allies like Bernie Sanders hate this budget, and rank and file Democrats think he’s going about this negotiation all wrong."
So why does the president offer a budget with cuts that could hurt his party and fellow Democrats running for re-election next year?
"The White House says this basically shows the president is the reasonable party in the room, that he really wants an agreement with Republicans, a far-reaching grand bargain….that would finally lock in something on the order of $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years,” says Knox.
Maybe so, but hasn’t the president tried this before? The Simpson-Bowles deficit commission he created had a plan to cut $4 trillion from the deficit over 10 years but it failed to attract enough votes. Eleven of its 18 members--Democrats and Republicans--voted in favor of the plan but a supermajority of 14 was needed, according to its own rules. (House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan led a group of three Republicans to vote no).
About a year later a bipartisan supercommittee of House and Senate congressional members also failed to reach agreement on a grand bargain. Even a distinguished bipartisan budget group led by former CBO Director Alice Rivlin and former Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici failed to get enough support for a budget deficit plan though it would have cut about 30% more than Simpson-Bowles over 10 years.
The political divide between Democrats and Republicans hasn’t changed since those plans were considered. “What we’re hearing from Republicans, at least publicly, is essentially ‘No’,” says Knox. "We don’t want any part of the tax increases...you got your tax increases with the fiscal deal and liberals are dead set against this thing.”
But, Knox adds, Obama’s budget may be the “only pathway” for Republicans to get the significant entitlement reform they want, and the president could be “staking out turf for ongoing negotiations about real spending bills.”
Maybe President Obama, who has often invoked Abraham Lincoln in the past, is just trying to appeal to “the better angels of our nature.”
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