President Obama finally produces a budget, and both parties find a lot not to like.
The Obama administration had been sharply criticized for failing to meet the requirements for submitting a budget. Late or not, however, at least there’s now some sort of framework that can serve as a starting point.
The budget was criticized for having very few new ideas. Because of its similarities to past proposals that were panned by Democrats and Republicans alike, there’s little expectation that anything resembling the proposed Obama budget will be passed.
Some notable factors of the Obama budget, of course, are the largest proposed tax increases in history, and a stated willingness to possibly deal with some entitlements. Both parties are on record as not supporting the proposed budget, but tax and entitlement reform are at least on the table; that should satisfy both sides to some extent.
The issue of federal spending still goes largely unaddressed, and Congress faces that knot once again. The cynical would say that precludes anything substantive from happening, but I’m a little more optimistic. After all, the ability of Congress and the president to continue to kick the issue down the road is growing less and less. Sequestration was a small prelude to the inevitability that if something isn’t done proactively, a forced correction will occur.
Republicans can either regard the Obama proposal as just more tax and spend, which is essentially true, or they can embrace the fact that perhaps they’ve been given some political cover to address the 800-lb. gorilla in the room – entitlement reform. Meanwhile, Democrats can view the Obama budget as locking them into the characterization of being the party of tax and spending. Or they can see it, despite opening up their most valued social programs to potential cuts, as a starting point that not only preserves, but expands most of their key priority areas.
The reason we continue to operate without a budget is that neither side has been willing to make the hard choices that reality demands. Of course, agriculture will look seriously at specific issues like raising grazing fees on public lands and the like. The budget may have been pronounced dead on arrival by both sides, but that doesn’t mean some of the concepts won’t emerge if Congress attempts to seriously create a budget this time around.
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Perhaps the real interesting thing will be whether sequestration will convince the Beltway that the budget crisis should be addressed, or whether any attempt to deal with the budget is politically toxic.
Stay tuned; the debate may actually begin in earnest. Whether it’s grazing fees or ethanol mandates, the tendency is to dismiss the idea that anything substantive will happen to change the overall dynamics. While recent history would validate that sentiment, there is a growing realization that if some decisions aren’t made, forced decisions will come. And both sides agree that the outcomes might not be as acceptable.
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