President Obama is taking fire from both sides of the aisle over his 2013 budget proposal, which he sent to Congress on Monday. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, called the $3.8 trillion spending plan a "nervous breakdown on paper" because it slashes spending too drastically. Republicans, on the other hand, called Obama's proposal a "gimmick," saying it aims to please voters by merely pretending to substantially cut the deficit while putting off tough decisions on deficit reduction until after the November election. Here, five other reasons Obama's budget is making such a splash:
1. Tax hikes make it unpassable
Republicans have stated flatly that Obama's budget is "dead on arrival," says Daniel Stone at The Daily Beast. "The reason: Tax increases on virtually every person making more than $250,000 a year, corporations included." The spending blueprint also lets Bush tax cuts expire, and imposes the so-called Buffett rule on people making $1 million per year, taxing them at a base rate of 30 percent. Obama has been talking for months about cutting deficits by pushing high-bracket tax rates higher. "Republicans, many beholden to an anti-tax-raising pledge, have never shown willingness to play ball," and there's no reason to think they'll change their minds now.
2. Once again, Obama has a $1 trillion deficit
Along with its tax increases, the $3.8 trillion budget includes "less debt reduction than Obama had previously promised," says Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. For the fourth year in a row, the deficit exceeds $1 trillion. Republicans say that makes Obama a "budget buster," a charge he might have avoided by cutting more spending — although that would have increased the risk of deeper unemployment. Clearly, Obama wants to keep "plugging money into the economy, damn the torpedoes, and hitch his wagon to the country's continued economic progress."
3. The budget is based on false assumptions
Obama's budget is so full of "gimmicks," says Tina Korbe at Hot Air, that it's only useful as an example of "how easily the budget process can be abused." Obama's alleged longterm deficit reduction, for example, "assumes cuts to Medicare providers won't actually happen," and "also counts the inevitable winding down of the war costs in Afghanistan — all of which is borrowed — as $1 trillion in spending reduction." The bottom line is that Obama, "like presidents before him, is able to claim nearly $3 trillion in reduction that he hasn't actually proposed."
4. It's all about the election
It doesn't really matter that Obama's budget won't pass as is, says Tom Raum at the Associated Press. That's not the point. Instead, the proposal "showcases the major priorities of his presidency and sets up the top battles that will be waged on both sides in the presidential campaign." Obama knows that Republicans will use his spending document to "make deficits and mounting debt the theme of their campaign," and attack what they'll call his "big government, tax-and-spend ways." But he's fine with that, because his aim is to signal to middle-class voters, who like the idea of making the rich pay more taxes, that his priority is creating jobs.
5. It spotlights the contrast between Obama and Romney
Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney called Obama's budget "an insult to the American taxpayer." Interesting, then, says John Cassidy at The New Yorker, that Obama's hike in the tax rate on dividends and investment capital gains — from 15 percent to a top rate of 35 percent — would push the taxes on Romney's $20.9 million 2011 income from $3.2 million to $7.3 million. A budget that is "dead on arrival" but hammers campaign planks and slaps a 133 percent tax hike on a potential rival in an election year? That's a "very politcial document," indeed.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 3 horrific inaccuracies in Homeland's depiction of Islamabad
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Rise of the machines
- Gamergate has backfired spectacularly on its nincompoop perpetrators
- Uncle Sam wants you to stay away from these countries
- Why the rise of cosplay is a bad sign for the U.S. economy
- The uncomfortable truth in The Giving Tree
- The real story behind Deliver Us From Evil
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
Subscribe to the Week