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Does President Obama's budget even matter?
Obama unveiled a notably centrist budget Wednesday morning. Both sides are outraged, and his plan won't pass the House.
President Obama's late budget is "catching hell from both sides."
President Obama's late budget is "catching hell from both sides." Spencer Platt/Getty Images
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resident Obama released his fiscal 2014 budget early Wednesday, two months late and in the middle — ideologically as well as figuratively — of several competing budgets in the House and Senate. Obama's proposal is already catching flak from the left and the right, and "obviously this budget isn't going to be passed by the House," says Matthew Yglesias at Slate. "So in a sense delving into the details doesn't even matter here," but the ideological clash this sets up with Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wisc.) budget is worth paying attention to.

No, it isn't, says Ed Rogers at The Washington Post. "Obama is so late to the game that his budget might be irrelevant," and he "already leaked parts of the plan to friendlies and gotten the headlines he wants" days ago, so there's not even much news value to this big unveil. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will rightly want to "dismiss this budget out of hand, with a shrug or an insult, and move on."

Instead, he needs to try and find something positive in Obama's baby step toward entitlement reform and try to make our system work. Boehner is right to ignore the president on taxes, since Boehner is as puzzled as the rest of us by the president's desire to hurt job growth via tax increases. [Washington Post]

Obama's budget release "may seem a little anticlimactic," says Frank James at NPR, "but even a budget that's going nowhere gives a president the chance to state priorities and place dollar amounts next to them." Economists will pore over the White House's inevitably optimistic projections for the economy, but budgets are also political documents.

Obama is "going to try to make himself look a little more bipartisan, a little bit more centrist, a little bit more willing to compromise," says federal budget expert Stan Collender. "And to do that he's going to submit a budget that Republicans and Democrats are going to hate equally."

Yes, the Obama budget is "catching hell from both sides," says John Avlon at The Daily Beast. And that's how you know it's "a good one."

This budget is not like all the others. It is not a positional bargaining document, designed simply to rally the base at the outset of negotiations. One way you can tell is that liberal activists and congressmen are already screaming "sellout" at the White House for offering Social Security reform as part of a balanced plan to reduce the deficit and debt. The Republican response so far has been crickets...

Plenty of voices from either side will see only political machinations rather than sincere outreach in this Obama budget. But however belated, the budget provides indelible evidence about a desire to match the president's occasional rhetoric of entitlement reform with reality. And if Republicans are serious about reducing long-term deficits and debt, they should treat this proposal as a significant step in the right direction, worthy of their own concessions. [Daily Beast]

But the politics works for the president, too, says Dana Milbank at The Washington Post. The liberal outrage just makes Obama look "like the reasonable one — and Republicans look unreasonable if they continue to carp about Obama's proposal without offering more tax hikes." Granted, "the liberals' objections are legitimate — particularly their resistance to a stingier inflation formula for Social Security, which isn't as big a budget problem as Medicare." But "the progressives' street protest did Obama a favor."

It's perhaps the most brazen attempt at triangulation in the Democratic Party since Bill Clinton (whose adviser Dick Morris popularized the term) defied liberals on welfare reform. That worked well for Clinton, and this may work well for Obama — but in the short term he's going to hear a lot of gasping and wheezing from those being triangulated. [Washington Post]

Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian, and plays in an Austin rock band.

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