Two very differing articles regarding the President’s new budget proposal.  The first article is from the Wall Street Journal and gives detailed and concise reasons why the President’s proposed budget will not promote faster growth and a healthier economy.
The second article is from the New York Times regarding the President’s proposed budget which doesn’t miss the chance to blame Republicans for the budget impasse.   Nancy
The Wall Street Journal

  • April 110, 2013

The President’s Priorities

Debt in 2014 will hit 78.2% of the economy.

President Obama is pitching his new budget proposal as a fiscal peace offering to Republicans, but the details suggest everyone should expect more conflict. The fiscal 2014 plan he released Wednesday is a very slightly modified version of his previous budgets that reduces the deficit by raising taxes and trading defense cuts for more domestic spending.

The real news is that his budget ratifies much of the spending increase of the first term and tries to lock it in. He wants the feds to spend $3.78 trillion next year ($11,944 per American), which would still be 22.2% of national output nearly four years into an economic recovery. Before the financial panic in 2008, the government was spending about $1 trillion less, or closer to $2.7 trillion a year and an average of 20% of GDP—and President Bush was no slouch as a spender himself.


Mr. Obama wants federal spending to grow to $4.45 trillion by 2018 fueled mostly by the exploding costs of his Affordable Care Act. This spending surge appears smaller than it is only because the government will bank large reductions in military spending as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars wind down. But unlike in the 1990s, this peace dividend will be spent.

The budget’s supposed bow to Republicans is Mr. Obama’s proposal for a modest change in annual cost of living adjustments for Social Security. “Chain CPI,” as the change is called, would cut spending by about $130 billion and raises taxes by about $100 billion over the next year. We support the concept, but the White House also slips a mickey into that proposal (see below).

Even with this inflation change, federal spending would grow by more than if Mr. Obama simply let current law continue. This is because the President wants to eliminate the current caps on discretionary spending under the budget sequester that are set to save close to $1 trillion over the next decade. He wants to repeal the sequester that is providing the only spending cuts in at least a decade.

His new spending ambitions include $50 billion for public works, more college aid, high-speed rail (the fiscal version of “The Walking Dead”), green energy giveways, $2 billion more for battery-operated cars even as the companies fail, manufacturing subsidies, full funding of ObamaCare, job training (on top of the current 47 federal programs), and more.

Editorial board member Steve Moore on President Obama’s budget. Photos: Associated Press

In return for the Social Security savings, Mr. Obama is still insisting that Republicans accept most of his tax increases totalling $1.1 trillion over 10 years. This budget is said to be a “balanced approach” with $2 of spending cuts for every $1 of new taxes, but over the next five years federal spending would actually rise by $680 billion. So he is really referring to imaginary “cuts” off of anticipated future spending increases. He also isn’t counting the estimated $1 trillion in tax increases over the next decade that are already part of ObamaCare.

So nearly all the deficit reduction would come by raising taxes on the oil and gas industry, hedge-fund managers, smokers, millionaires—and savers with his new tax on the buildup of wealth inside 401(k) plans and IRAs above $3 million.

His new preschool entitlement would be funded by raising the cigarette tax to $1.95 a pack from $1.01 now and from 39 cents when he entered office. Someone should inform the White House that tax hikes on a shrinking group of smokers to finance payments to a growing number of beneficiaries is not a healthy fiscal strategy, as the states have found out by spending the proceeds of the Medicaid tobacco settlement.

Mr. Obama is reproposing the “Buffett tax” on millionaires that would raise the levy on capital gains, dividends and other investment income to 30%. When Mr. Obama entered office the investment tax rate was 15% on capital gains and dividends. This year he raised the rate to 23.8% with the ObamaCare investment surtax. Now he wants 30%. This would raise the effective combined tax on corporate profits to close to 54%, one of the highest in the world.

The one piece of good news is that the overall fiscal picture has improved of late because of record-low borrowing costs, the sequester, and a surge in revenues over the past six months due to higher tax rates (and their anticipation last year). The deficit could fall to about $500 billion next year, which counts as progress given the last five years.

On the other hand, debt held by the public as a share of the economy will continue to climb—to what the White House predicts will be a peak of 78.2% of GDP in 2014. As recently as 2008, U.S. debt was 40.5% of the economy. Mr. Obama has nearly doubled it. (See the nearby chart.) With a modicum of spending restraint and faster growth, the debt burden will start to decline. The danger is that there’s no room to avoid Southern European debt levels if we have another recession or an interest-rate spike.

The Obama years have turned much about U.S. politics on its head, such as the fact that Presidents usually restrain Congress on spending. Since 2010, the House has restrained a President who wants to keep spending like it’s 2009. The U.S. needs a federal budget that would promote faster growth, but gridlock may be the best we can get.

April 10, 2013

The President’s Budget


President Obama knew full well that many Democrats and liberals would be sharply critical of his decision to propose reducing the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment, one of the centerpieces of his 2014 budget, which was released on Wednesday. In fact, he was counting on it. He wanted to show that he was willing to antagonize his supporters to get a budget compromise, putting Republicans on the spot to do the same.

Naturally, Republicans refused. Curbing the rise of Social Security benefits and raising Medicare premiums for higher-income people were two of the highest priorities for Republican leaders just a few months ago. Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, said last fall that if Mr. Obama proposed them, he would consider allowing tax revenue to go up.

But, on Wednesday, when the president actually did so, Mr. McConnell dismissed the budget as unserious. Not a single Congressional Republican could be found to consider a budget that combines twice as much in spending cuts as it raises in tax revenues.

The Social Security proposal remains a bad idea, and, as this page has explained, it could hurt vulnerable retirees and stymie better ideas to improve the system, like raising the wage cap subject to the payroll tax. But it seems unlikely to happen if Mr. Obama holds to his demand for more revenues in exchange, given the Republican intransigence. For now, it has served its purpose — no one will be able to accuse Mr. Obama of refusing to touch entitlements, and no one can credit Republicans for being at all serious about a deficit-reduction compromise.

Rejecting the president’s budget also means passing over a host of good ideas — chief among them, replacing the arbitrary and damaging sequestration cuts with more sensible reductions, along with ways to make the rich pay a larger share of revenues.

The plan would cut spending by about $1.2 trillion over a decade, which is more than is necessary and more than Mr. Obama previously offered. The cuts include $306 billion from Medicare providers by relying more on generic drugs and demanding greater efficiencies from doctors and hospitals. Drug companies would have to pay a much larger share of the costs borne by low-income Medicare recipients. Farm subsidies would be cut by $38 billion, and spending on the military, the State Department and homeland security would also be reduced.

Couples with incomes starting at about $170,000 a year would have to pay about 5 percentage points more for Medicare premiums. And there would be several other significant tax increases: The carried-interest tax break used by wealthy hedge fund operators would rise to ordinary-income levels, overall tax breaks for couples making more than $250,000 would be reduced, and a “Buffett Rule” that would ensure that millionaires pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes. The federal cigarette tax would almost double to $1.95 a pack. Collectively, new revenues would bring in about $600 billion in a decade.

Much of that would help pay for needed new spending, including $166 billion for public works and $77 billion for early-childhood education. Mr. Obama reiterated his call to use investments in research and manufacturing to spur growth, particularly in high-skill jobs.

It is clear that the incessant demands by Republicans for entitlement cuts were always hollow; some have already said the budget hurts older people. The growing impact of the sequester cuts will also make it clear that Republicans are rejecting a far more rational way to govern.


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