In his weekly national address on Saturday, President Obama likened the budget he will propose on Monday to ‘family pocketbook choices.’ According to the Washington Post, Obama’s proposed budget will lead to an ‘overall freeze’ in discretionary non-defense spending over the next five years with ‘difficult cuts’ in some areas to allow for increases in others, namely, education, technology, and infrastructure (including roads, bridges and technology).
The President cited the plight of a Missouri family, David and Brenda Breece, who have chosen to make financial sacrifices in order to finance their daughter’s college eduction. Politico quotes from Obama’s address:
“Families across this country understand what it takes to manage a budget,” Obama said. “They understand what it takes to make ends meet without forgoing important investments like education. Well, it’s time Washington acted as responsibly as our families do.”
Obama said that the Breece family has had to sacrifice “what they don’t need so that they can afford what really matters,” and that government must follow that example.
“So, after a decade of rising deficits, this budget asks Washington to live within its means, while at the same time investing in our future…..It cuts what we can’t afford to pay for what we cannot do without.”
“That’s what families do in hard times. And that’s what our country has to do too,” he concluded.
The Obama administration is calling for freezing the salaries of non-defense federal employees; getting rid of a number of government-owned buildings that are not in use; and cutting the Pentagon’s budget by $78 billion over five years. Other programs facing cuts include those for energy aid for low-income families, community services and development grants and assistance to restore the Great Lakes. And, the President has threatened to veto any bills that contain earmarks.
Currently, the government is running annual deficits averaging $1 trillion. Republicans are seeking to cut $100 billion in domestic spending in the current fiscal year. As the New York Times says:
To frame the year’s budget debate, Mr. Obama has been arguing for weeks that such deep cuts could threaten the recovery and that the economy’s growth and competitiveness demand some spending increases, as he is proposing, in programs for education, infrastructure, innovation and research.
The administration also contends that its 10-year plan would leave the country in better overall fiscal health than the path envisioned by Congressional Republicans. They would maintain the Bush-era tax cuts after 2012, repeal the cost-saving provisions of the health care law and exempt the military from spending cuts even as they rip domestic spending.
While Mr. Obama will also reduce military spending and some health program costs, neither he nor the Republicans are tackling the unsustainable long-term growth of entitlement programs like Medicare or proposing to raise significant revenues.
In his Republican response, Senator Orrin Hatch said that Obama’s plan is ‘too timid,’ noted the Washington Post:
“The president’s proposal for a freeze in government spending might give the White House a nice talking point……But it is a totally inadequate solution to our nation’s spending problems.”
Hatch, who faces re-election this year and who is ‘eager to display a tough line on fiscal issues to dissuade a strong tea party challenge’—like the one that defeated his former Utah colleague, Republican Sen. Bob Bennett—called for an overhaul of the tax code, changes to Social Security and Medicare, and new trade deals with South Korea, Panama and Colombia.
Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, commented on the President’s caution, noting that ‘”in this highly bipartisan environment…..It may be better for him to play the role of referee.”’
Photo by RambergMediaImages.
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