Next week, President Barack Obama will announce his budget plan.
And though headlines suggest the plan will represent a bold move to the "center," the proposal could actually end up undermining his goals.
Obama's budget will include lowered cost of living adjustments in various benefit programs, including the key "chained CPI" adjustment that would have a significant effect on the growth of Social Security.
But by opening up to entitlement cuts, Obama is providing House Speaker John Boehner and Republicans with an opportunity. As Slate's Matt Yglesias wrote Friday morning, Republicans can argue that since they and Obama agree on certain entitlement cuts, why not just get them out of the way now? Then, they can solve the tax issue — on which both sides fundamentally disagree — later in the debate.
That's exactly what Boehner said in a statement responding to the reports of Obama's budget offer Friday morning.
"If the president believes these modest entitlement savings are needed to help shore up these programs, there's no reason they should be held hostage for more tax hikes," Boehner said. "That’s no way to lead and move the country forward."
Meanwhile, Obama is also opening himself up to opposition from the American public. Because though polls show that Americans prefer blanket "spending cuts," not even Republican voters like the idea of any specific cuts, especially to entitlement programs.
A recent Pew Research Center poll found that 41 percent of respondents actually want to increase Social Security spending, compared with just 10 percent who said it should be decreased. And because Obama is technically proposing them, Republicans can hit Democrats up for re-election with a charge that their party is cutting Social Security.
New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait wrote much of the same argument as Yglesias, calling the strategy a "completely ridiculous" one that only serves to appeal to those inside the beltway:
Mainly this appears to be a message strategy aimed at advocates of BipartisanThink, who have been blaming Obama for failing to offer the plan he has in fact been offering. The strategy is that, by converting their offer to Boehner from an “offer” to a “budget,” it will prove that Obama is Serious.
Like he did with the sequester, Boehner seems to be continuing to play the budget games perfectly thus far.
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