WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is trying to have it both ways with an election-year budget that pays faint lip service to reducing federal deficits while piling on about $1 trillion in tax increases and hundreds of billions in higher spending designed to appeal to economically squeezed voters rather than congressional foes of red ink.
Few, if any, of the proposals Obama sent to Congress on Tuesday are likely to be enacted into law before next fall's elections. But that's not the point.
The objective is political rather than legislative — a book-length compendium of proposals meant to give Democratic congressional candidates a campaign platform at a time when economic disparity is a major concern for millions trying to dig out from the worst recession in decades.
Last year's deficit-cutting proposals "remain on the table," says the budget, referring ever so gingerly to recommended cuts in the growth of Social Security benefits. Asserting the "Republicans' unwillingness to negotiate a balanced long-term deficit reduction deal," it adds the president is now turning toward "the best path to create growth and opportunity for all Americans."
Shifting priorities means a budget that never balances at any point in the next decade, lays waste to the spending caps that the White House and Congress agreed to late last year and imposes higher taxes on the wealthy to pay for more spending on programs that benefit those further down the income ladder. Education, job training, child care, transportation, tax breaks for lower-income millions of Americans and more would receive increased funding.
The White House refers to this approach — including raising the minimum wage — as "the best path to create growth and opportunity for all Americans."
Not surprisingly, Republicans call it something different.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, said Obama "has once again opted for the political stunt — for a budget that's more about firing up the president's base in an election year than about solving the nation's biggest and most persistent long-term challenges."
By that, he means the growth of benefit programs and federal deficits.
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said House Republicans will offer an alternative "that balances, promotes opportunity, reforms our tax code, saves our critical safety net programs and places a priority on creating jobs, not more government."
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the chairman of the House Budget Committee, has already let it be known he is looking at changes to the welfare system. Coincidentally or not, that was the area on which congressional Republicans and former President Bill Clinton ultimately reached a major compromise almost two decades ago.
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