Obama's Federal Budget Looking Backward and Ahead
The new Obama budget is a two-headed creature that looks in opposite directions -- back at the deep hole created by fiscal irresponsibility and ahead with wishful thinking toward desirable social gains.
The focus to the rear is in the president's call for a three-year freeze on discretionary domestic spending -- not to begin until next year -- to tackle the deficit created by two on-going, unpaid-for wars and by past tax cuts to the wealthy and other follies.
The gaze ahead is in his determination not to surrender the goals, most prominently including health-care reform, that drove his successful campaign for the presidency before the reality of economic collapse had to be faced.
These conflicting postures inevitably convey mixed and even contradictory marching orders to
Were the president willing and able to put the latter entirely on hold, the obvious course to put America back to work would be a more massive federal public-works undertaking, in the manner of FDR's response to the Great Depression. Elements of such an enterprise are already seen in the Obama stimulus package enacted by congressional Democrats last year. The new budget also seeks
To help finance this and other increased spending in the budget, Obama is additionally proposing more federal money for education, clean-energy research and other long-range projects. They are to be paid for in part by ending the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich and new assessments on them.
Inevitably, these levies will unleash laments of "class warfare" from the moneyed targets, which will join the growing anti-government chorus from the tea-party movement that threatens Obama's presidency and continued Democratic control of
It has always seemed ironic that the economically comfortable segment of American society would raise the class-warfare banner against its have-nots, but it appears to have had traction over the years. As recently as 2000, when Democratic presidential nominee
There is no doubt that the Obama administration from the outset has tried to tilt to one class, but not so much the poor as the middle class. A hope in tapping
One of Obama's first actions after the election was to create the
A challenge for Obama heading into the fall congressional elections will be to convince voters of the wisdom of his hybrid budget -- aimed at pulling the country out of recession and into recovery, and at the same time addressing future middle-class needs and desires.
But so far, the Republican congressional leaders appear convinced that keeping their ranks solidly in opposition, and demanding at the president focus squarely on deficit and spending right now, is their best route to political success in November. Unless Obama's renewed call for bipartisanship suddenly takes hold, the second year of his presidency shapes up to be another long and frustrating one for him.
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Obama's Federal Budget Looking Backward and Ahead | Jules Witcover
(c) 2010 Jules Witcover