For fiscal year 2012, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan said he'll present a budget that "will include real entitlement reforms." There's obviously some political risk here. Social Security is considered the third rail of American politics, and many Republicans cited Medicare cuts as one of the defects of Obamacare.
But there's also some risk in not addressing entitlements. Obama's fiscal year 2012 budget does nothing to address the looming problems of Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. That looks less like "hope and change" and more like "inertia and despair."
So do his budget plans for the out-years beyond fiscal year 2012, which don't address entitlements and are larded with gimmicks. The charitable deduction for high earners would be cut permanently (in effect transferring money from charities to the government) to pay for a few years of Alternative Minimum Tax fixes. The patent period for biologic drugs, set by the last Congress, would be reduced to pay for a few years of the annual Medicare "doc fix."
In November 2010, the voters rejected the vast increase in the size and scope of government of the Obama Democrats. They had increased domestic discretionary spending by 24 percent, and by more than 80 percent if you count the stimulus package.
Now the president is trying to salvage most of what was intended to be a permanent increase of government's share of the economy by calling for dribs and drabs of cuts and freezing total discretionary spending at a much higher level than ever before.
This may be, as Chait suggests, a successful short-term political ploy, while being obviously long-term bad public policy. Conventional wisdom is that voters like spending cuts in the abstract but oppose any specific cuts except in foreign aid.
But conventional wisdom also said that the stimulus package and Obamacare would be popular. The Republicans, following where the voters led, are betting conventional wisdom is wrong again.