First, a meager helping of praise for the president: At least he's offered a tangible budget for public consumption, which is more than can be said of the feckless and negligent Democratic majority in the United States Senate. But showing up to play is the bare minimum; on substance, laudable elements of president's 2013 budget are very scarce indeed. The document represents a cynical election year gambit by a hyper-partisan administration, which should come as no surprise to White House observers. President Obama's fiscal blueprint makes no attempt at real governance, nor does it even sniff the goal of "bringing people together" to "change the way Washington operates" -- two memorable tropes from his 2008 campaign. Instead, the president has chosen to double-down on his surreal 2012 proposal, calling for a huge tax hike on "the rich" (which includes many small businesses and job creators), pushing nearly half-a-billion dollars in new "stimulus" spending, largely side-stepping the cruical question of entitlement reform, and racking up a $1.3 Trillion annual deficit. ABC News notices that much of the budget regurgitates previously-rejected privisions that track with Obama's re-election strategy:
...With little chance that Congress will enact the agenda, and many of the included proposals already rejected, the presentation will be largely a moment of political theater aimed at projecting an image of the president as a “warrior for the middle class.” The budget itself puts meat on the bones of an election-year policy agenda Obama laid out in his State of the Union Address last month and in a fiery broadside in Osawatomie, Kan., late last year. It calls for $1.3 trillion in deficit spending next year, including $350 billion in spending on jobs programs and $476 billion in infrastructure projects. Obama also wants to boost aid for manufacturing research and development by 19 percent above current levels, to $2.2 billion.
To pay for the spending, the president would raise $1.5 trillion in added tax revenue largely from higher taxes on wealthier Americans. He would allow the Bush tax cuts to expire on families earning more than $250,000 a year and impose a new minimum tax of 30 percent on millionaires, which the administration has called the “Buffett Rule.” ... To further reduce the deficit, the president is seeking $360 billion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid and $278 billion in savings from non-health benefits programs such as agriculture subsidies and federal civilian worker pensions. But despite such cuts, the president’s budget would mark the fourth straight year that deficit spending exceeds $1 trillion and falls well short of his 2009 promise to “cut the deficit we inherited by half by the end of my first term in office.”
In short, this president's spending bender shows no signs of abating whatsoever. He'll use economy-damaging tax increases as a deficit fig leaf, while remaining silent on structural reforms to the programs that are the top drivers of US debt. Slashing Medicare and Medicaid via hundreds of billions in unspecified, ad hoc cuts (will these decisions be made by Obamacare's unelected, unaccountable IPAB panel?) ignores the towering systemic problem, and leaves in place an unsustainable status quo. Obama's $360 Billion in TBD Medicare/Medicaid cuts may seem like a serious effort at first blush, but those programs currently face tens of trillions in unfunded liabilities. Drawing one bucket's worth of debt from an expanding sea of red ink accomplishes next to nothing, aside from feeding the illusion that you're dealing with the problem.
More "stimulus." Tax hikes on "the rich." A ten-figure annual deficit. Punting tough decisions on entitlements. This is a president in full re-elect mode, with no interest in doing the job the American people hired him to do. He's more concerned with securing a contract extension so he can continue his project of of "fundamentally transforming" America, in which the Constitution is an afterthought. As we await further details and formal responses to Obama's preditably noxious budget, here's his incoming Chief of Staff, Jack Lew, repeating Democrats' big lie on the Senate's 1,020-day budget fail:
(1) No, the Senate did not pass a budget last year. Democrats exploited the passage of the Budget Control Act as an occasion to "deem" a budget passed. (2) And, once again, budget resolutions are not subject to the filibuster. Jake Tapper and the Washington Post both flay Lew for this point, labeling his assertions "misleading." Ahem. Mr. Lew is the former White House budget director. He knows full well that he's "misleading" on these points. When one advances arguments he knows to be untrue, that's called "lying." If you enjoy being lied to by politicians, you're going to love the next few weeks, as the president and his allies defend the monstrosity he's just unveiled.
Much more Budget Day analysis to come...