Obama Outlines Budget 2013Posted: November 14, 2012
WAPO has gotten a copy of the what the Obama administration is offering for its 2013 budget. There are several points that I think you’ll find interesting. There’s a peace dividend, there’s no planned cuts to social security or medicare, and there’s plans for higher taxes. It appears Obama will not repeat the conciliatory tone of his first 4 years which we characterized as a series of cave-ins.
Democrats said Obama is likely to maintain a tough stance Friday, when Boehner and other congressional leaders are due to gather at the White House for their first face-to-face discussions about how to avoid the fiscal cliff. Fresh off a resounding electoral victory in which they kept the White House and picked up seats in the House and Senate, Democrats said there is no reason to compromise now on a central plank of the president’s platform.
“It was an intrinsic part of his campaign, and the public supports it. So what more do you want?” said Rep. Sander M. Levin (D-Mich.), the senior Democrat on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.
Obama’s stance on not extending the Bush tax cuts was stated in meetings with liberals yesterday and in a presser today. This is consistent with the WAPO budget outline.
Obama’s 2013 budget sought to reduce borrowing over the next 10 years by about $4 trillion, counting $1.1 trillion in agency cuts already in force. In addition to raising taxes, Obama proposed to slice $340 billion from health-care programs and to count about $1 trillion in savings from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
His budget request did not include reductions to health and retirement benefits, but Obama did consider such changes in his 2011 talks with Boehner, including raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 and applying a stingier measure of inflation to Social Security.
Senior Democrats, meanwhile, threw cold water on a competing proposal to scale back deductions that disproportionately benefit upper-income taxpayers while keeping the top tax rates at their present level.
On Tuesday, former Clinton administration Treasury secretary Robert Rubin wrote in the New York Times that closing loopholes and deductions would not be an acceptable solution to the nation’s fiscal challenges. And Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who is set to become chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said she “has not seen how the math works to let you come up with the additional revenue.”
In a meeting Tuesday, Obama offered no specific assurances to liberal leaders about what a final deal might look like and what entitlement programs might face cuts. But Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association and a participant in the session, said Obama did not have to make such assurances.
“He hasn’t wavered through the whole campaign,” Van Roekel said. “He’s been consistent on [his] message, and I don’t think he’ll change it now.”
But despite his softer rhetoric, Obama made no concessions on his demand for higher taxes on the top 2 percent. He argued that the majority of the American voters supported his position on taxes, which he campaigned strongly on. “I’m concerned about not finding us in a situation where the wealthy aren’t paying more or aren’t paying as much as they should,” he said.
He added, moreover, it would be “very difficult to see how we make up that trillion dollars” of revenue that would be lost if the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy were extended. Outside economists have confirmed as much: It’s not easy to use deductions and exemptions for the wealthy to generate much tax revenue without hitting the middle class or going after tax breaks like the employer deduction for health care that many lawmakers believe are off-limits.
1:55 pm: Obama said that dealing with the Bush tax cuts by making sure that middle-class taxes don’t rise would make major headway in dealing with the threat of the fiscal cliff. “Half of the danger to our economy is removed by that single step,” he said.
Obama met on Tuesday with allies from labor and liberal groups, and invited a group of CEOs to the White House for a mid-afternoon session, also to focus on the threat posed to the economic recovery by the combination of tax increases and spending cuts.
At the news conference, he laid out a two-step process for an overall compromise — immediate extension of all the expiring tax cuts except the top rate, followed by a comprehensive agreement in 2013 to overhaul the tax code and the government’s big benefits programs, which include Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
Obama signed legislation two years ago extending the Bush tax cuts in their entirety after saying he wouldn’t.
Asked why this time will be different, he said, “what I said at the time was what I meant, which is that this was a one-time proposition.”
Now, he said, legislation that keeps most of the cuts in place but not those for the upper-income earners would be “actually removing half the fiscal cliff.”
Asked if he viewed it as a deal-breaker if Republicans refused to allow the top tax rate to revert to 39.6 percent from the current 35 percent, he said, “I just want to emphasize I am open to new ideas if the Republican counterparts or some Democrats have a great idea for us to raise revenue, maintain progressivity, make sure the middle class isn’t getting hit, reduces our deficit.'”
White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president would bring to the table a proposal for $1.6 trillion in new taxes on business and the wealthy when he begins discussions with congressional Republicans, a figure that Obama outlined in his most recent budget plan. The targeted revenue is twice the amount Obama discussed with Republican leaders during debt talks during the summer of 2011.
All of these articles indicate that Obama has walked away from his 2011 offers as leaked earlier this week. The obvious fight will come as the so-called fiscal cliff issues begin to appear at the beginning of the year. Most of these issues come into play if the sequestration deal kicks in. This time the President has not lead with a compromise deal. We’ll see what happens as the lame duck congress winds down and the beginning of the year approaches.