Our View

Obama sends Congress a $3.77 trillion budget

By From page A6 | April 16, 2013

The issue: Lawmakers should seize this opportunity to seriously reduce deficit spending

The president’s annual budget was due in early February, and since then, Republicans have been badgering him to produce one. On Wednesday, President Barack Obama rolled out a spending plan of nearly $3.8 trillion — and got little thanks for it, even from some Democrats.

SENATE GOP LEADER Mitch McConnell of Kentucky called it “an extreme unbalanced budget that won’t balance in your lifetime or mine.” (He’s 71.) He dismissed it as, “for the most part, just another left-wing wish list.”

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the budget “merely ratified the status quo.” Ryan has produced the last two Republican budgets. The first died because of politically unpopular proposed changes in Medicare. Ryan doubled down on his second budget, which pledged to balance the budget in 10 years through draconian and politically improbable cuts in domestic spending.

Obama’s budget was aimed at another political leader: House Speaker John Boehner, with whom the president hopes to revive a “grand bargain” on deficit reduction. But Boehner rejected the budget’s proposed tax increases of nearly $1 trillion over 10 years — $580 billion of it from the wealthy — saying the $660 billion in tax increases negotiated as part of the “fiscal cliff” deal were enough. “The president got his tax hike in January,” Boehner said.

After four years, the Senate recently passed a budget of its own, one that closely tracks Obama’s, with one key exception: Obama would recalculate the cost-of-living formula for Social Security to slow the increase in benefits. The Senate would not. Some Democrats are outraged that, along with trimming Medicare, Obama would even try.

OBAMA’S BUDGET calls for spending $3.77 trillion in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, a relatively modest 2.5 percent increase. Deficit spending — projected at $973 billion for the current year — would fall to $744 billion. It has topped $1 trillion for four consecutive years.

In addition to the tax increases on the rich — at least 30 percent on those earning over $1 million — Obama would close tax loopholes largely available to the wealthy, increase the estate tax, scale back farm subsidies, eliminate oil and gas production subsidies and increase the tax on a pack of cigarettes by 94 cents, hardy likely to please a tobacco-state representative like McConnell. That tax increase would subsidize early childhood education.

All told, Obama’s budget would cut $100 billion each from defense and domestic spending over the next decade. However, it calls for $50 billion in infrastructure spending, $40 billion of which would be spent almost immediately on the most critical projects.

Passing the budget would eliminate the “sequester” of automatic, across-the-board spending cuts of $1.2 trillion over the next decade, as called for in an unsuccessful attempt to reach a budget deal last summer. Congress should take this opportunity to seriously cut the deficit for the sake of all future generations who are now burdened with a massive debt.

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