On the campaign trail, President Obama likes to talk about his desire to “bring people together” to solve the nation’s challenges. While his chosen agenda makes that nearly impossible, a budget proposal he teased Friday does seemed to have united members in Congress. Lawmakers from both the left and the right publicly dismissed his proposal to trim entitlement spending in exchange for tax hikes.
Obama’s formal budget proposal is already two months past the statutory deadline. The White House has said it will unveil its budget blueprint on Wednesday, making it the latest submission of the President’s budget in history. Congress, in fact, has already begun its work on the budget, with each chamber passing its budget plan last month. In many respects, Obama’s budget plan is almost beside the point now.
Any resentment over Obama’s budget delay was only deepened Friday when he floated a plan to change how entitlement benefits are calculated. The proposal would use an index called “chained CPI” to calculate inflation adjustments in Social Security benefit checks. Many analysts believe the current mechanism overstates inflation, causing benefit payments to increase slightly more than they would under a more realistic measurement.
Liberals hate the idea.
“The Senate just last month went on record in opposition to the president’s approach,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement. Sanders went on to say that he was “terribly disappointed” in the President’s proposal and would do everything he could to stop it.
Republicans, who generally support the change, also panned the Obama’s proposal, however. Obama conditioned his support for the change on GOP agreement to raise taxes on the “wealthy.” Speaker Boehner said Obama was holding reform “hostage” to higher taxes.
“If the president believes these modest entitlement savings are needed to help shore up these programs, there’s no reason they should be held hostage for more tax hikes,” Boehner said in a statement. “That’s no way to lead and move the country forward.”
A further problem for Republicans is that Obama’s proposal generates very little in the way of net savings. While it is estimated to trim Social Security spending by $130 billion over ten years, it also raises $100 billion in new revenue over that time, because the new index would also be used to adjust tax brackets. $30 billion out of around $50 trillion in spending is basically a rounding error in the federal budget.
Most Presidents’ budget proposals are usually DOA when submitted to Congress, which takes very seriously its power over federal spending. Obama’s budget, however, looks dead before it even leaves the White House.