Jewish World Review April 12, 2013/ 2 Iyar, 5773
President Obama's charmless budget
By Rich Lowry
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | President Barack Obama’s latest budget proposal makes a good predicate for a grand bargain — between the White House and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Granted, the White House envisions a higher level of debt 10 years from now than in the highly ideological document produced by the most left-wing Democrats in Congress. But if the president is truly open to reason, he’ll listen to the co-chairmen of the caucus, Reps. Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Keith Ellison of Minnesota, and find a way to achieve as much deficit reduction as they do.
Then, at least, he’ll be a little closer to Paul Ryan and the House Republicans, who have about $4 trillion to $5 trillion more in deficit reduction than he does over the next 10 years.
The new White House budget is supposed to embody the president’s “charm offensive,” during which he has subjected himself to the indignity of occasionally eating meals with members of the opposition. He was forced into this expedient after his posture of the end-is-nigh confrontation in the run-up to the sequester failed miserably and damaged his standing with the public.
Going out of his way to get to know Republican senators and congressmen in the fifth year of his presidency is certainly charming of him, but if Obama truly wants a “grand bargain,” there’s no substitute for substance. This budget doesn’t provide it, but hey, there’s always the budget for 2015.
There are a few constants in the president’s budgeteering. When he isn’t reaching out to Republicans, he proposes more spending and taxes. When he is reaching out to Republicans, he proposes more spending and taxes. He increases spending by $150 billion next year and wants an additional $1 trillion in new taxes over the next 10 years.
In fact, he’s so consistent that even when he is making a serious gesture toward deficit reduction and meeting Republicans halfway, he increases the deficit. He’s proposing a higher deficit than under current policy until 2017, the first year of the Clinton administration. In other words, if the president weren’t being so charming and just threw up his hands and said “let’s keep doing what we’re doing now,” the deficit would initially be lower than under his much-touted budget attempting to bring the two sides in Washington together.
The claimed deficit reduction evaporates upon first contact with scrutiny. The Associated Press writes, “Obama claims $1.8 trillion in deficit savings over the coming decade, but the budget tables show the savings are actually $1.4 trillion. And $1.2 trillion of that is devoted to reversing automatic, across-the-board spending cuts required because of Washington’s inability to follow up a 2011 budget pact with further deficit action.”
The signature proposal of the new, more winsome and companionable Obama budget is so-called chained CPI, a technical adjustment in the calculation of inflation that reduces Social Security benefits. This was part of Obama’s offer to House Speaker John Boehner in the grand bargain negotiations. Obama has repeatedly congratulated himself in public for his courage on entitlements behind closed doors, without ever bothering to propose in open view what he advocated in private.
Now, he has put it in writing. That’s progress. And he deserves credit for doing what Republicans haven’t dared — cutting an entitlement benefit for current retirees. His base, which is driven into paroxysms of rage over proposals to modernize Medicare 10 years from now, is predictably unhinged over the idea of touching the holy of holies, Social Security, right away.
But chained CPI is an inherently “balanced” proposal, since it accelerates bracket creep and leads to higher taxes. Even so, the president says he will jettison it without other tax increases. This is the joke of the Obama charm offensive in a nutshell: He won’t accept his own proposal for what is, in part, a tax increase, unless it is paired with yet more, different tax increases.
If the president thinks Republicans are going to go for this, he hasn’t spent nearly enough time with them. His budget comes weeks late, after the House and the Senate have already passed their own budget resolutions. It is hard to imagine a deader-on-arrival budget than this one. More than a herald of a great breakthrough, it is another indication that the entitlement crisis that is a little closer with the retirement of every baby boomer won’t be seriously addressed during his presidency.
If this is the best he can do, he should stop trying.
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© 2012 King Features Syndicate