Obamas Budget Wins Predictable Cheers and Jeers
The reviews are in on President Barack Obamas first budget, and they are a decidedly mixed bag. Democrats and Republicans alike urged greater long-term fiscal discipline in the face of the largest expansion of debt in the nations history, but differed on Obamas plans to tax the wealthy, expand health care and impose a cap-and-trade system on carbon emissions. Its a spend, tax and borrow our way into prosperity budget, said Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the ranking member of the Budget Committee. Ryan said the budget would likely lead to a continued partisan split this year. We cant work with the other side if they insist on dramatically growing government, he said. There is no fiscal restraint, said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), the ranking member of the Budget Committee and one-time Obama nominee for Commerce secretary. Gregg and Ryan praised Obama for proposing means testing for the Medicare prescription drug benefit and for proposing cuts in payments to farmers with revenue over $500,000, but said those are relatively small savings to the ocean of red ink envisioned by the plan. Were going to double the debt in five years and triple it in 10, Gregg said. Gregg said the budget will raise taxes on small businesses and on households through the cap-and-trade system. Ryan also took a whack at the cap-and-trade system, arguing that it would slam cold-weather states such as his and those with manufacturing. We are not giving 95 percent of people a tax cut when we are raising their energy prices, Ryan said. Both Gregg and Ryan urged a bipartisan effort to cut the cost of entitlements that threaten to swallow the budget as the baby boomers retire. Gregg suggested starting with Social Security reform and then moving on to health care entitlements. Gregg also said that Obama shouldnt get much credit for cutting the deficit in half in four years, because the budget would essentially do that on auto-pilot. If you are quadrupling the deficit and then cutting it in half, you arent getting very far, he said. Democrats gave Obama a far more favorable review, arguing that he was already taking major first steps to control spending while investing in Democratic priorities of energy, education and health care and cutting taxes for most Americans. This president inherited a fiscal mess of historic proportions, Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said. Conrad commended Obama for cutting the deficit to $533 billion in fiscal 2013 and for avoiding some of the budget sleight of hand from previous budgets to mask the actual size of the deficit. But he said that the long-term picture still most be addressed beyond the five-year window. House Budget Chairman John Spratt (D-S.C.) noted that the package includes significant new tax cuts, including making permanent the $400-per-worker cut enacted in the stimulus package, the Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class and reform of the alternative minimum tax so it does not adversely affect the middle class. Conrad urged a fundamental reform of the tax system as well as entitlements to help close the long-term budget gap, and continued to propose fast-track rules for votes on a plan to slice the long-term deficit. Conrad also said no decisions have been made on whether to use budget reconciliation rules to avoid filibusters on health care or climate change bills, although he personally is resisting such a move.