McArdle wonders what Obama hopes to accomplish with his new budget, which leaked last week and will be officially released this week:
It’s unusual for a budget to leak so far ahead of its actual release. The administration is clearly trying to seize the initiative, getting a few days of talk about their budget while the Republicans, who don’t have the actual budget yet, are unable to mount a real attack on it. But it’s not clear to what end he is fighting. Winning the budget messaging war is not going to get us a sound budget, and probably not going to open up much movement on the rest of his policy agenda. The president is defending his flanks while the advance grinds to a halt.
Mainly this appears to be a message strategy aimed at advocates of BipartisanThink, who have been blaming Obama for failing to offer the plan he has in fact been offering. The strategy is that, by converting their offer to Boehner from an “offer” to a “budget,” it will prove that Obama is Serious. On the one hand, this strikes me as completely ridiculous. On the other hand, it might actually work! BipartisanThinkers like Ron Fournier (“a gutsy change in strategy”) and Joe Scarborough (“Now THIS is a real budget … exciting”) are gushing with praise.
Josh Marshall is less cynical:
In conversations with the president’s key advisors and the President himself over the last three years one point that has always come out to me very clearly is that the President really believes in the importance of the Grand Bargain. He thinks it’s an important goal purely on its own terms. That’s something I don’t think a lot of his diehard supporters fully grasp. He thinks it’s important in longrange fiscal terms (and there’s some reality to that). But he always believes it’s important for the country and even for the Democratic party to have a big global agreement that settles the big fiscal policy for a generation and let’s the country get on to other issues — social and cultural issues, the environment, building the economy etc.
This will be an interesting test of the theory that one of the things preventing a deal has been simple Republican ignorance of what Obama has offered. Once these things are in the official budget, there’s simply no way to ignore them. They’ll get a ton of coverage—including massive outrage from the liberal base—and there will be enough detail that even Bill O’Reilly should be satisfied that Obama is offering a “real plan.” The fact that Obama is proposing serious cuts in entitlements will finally be impossible to ignore.
Peter Orzag puts Obama’s chained CPI proposal, which would reduce future increases in Social Security payments, in perspective :
President Barack Obama deserves credit for political courage in being willing to adopt the chained CPI — in the face of strong opposition from members of his party. But if switching to the chained index reduces the 10-year deficit by less than $150 billion and the 75-year Social Security actuarial gap by less than 10 percent, can a “grand bargain” built around it really be all that grand? And if it reduces benefits for an 85- year-old retiree by less than 2 percent, is it really so destructive?
And Collender expects the budget to have very little impact:
The reality is that the Obama 2014 budget has already been declared dead on arrival by the House GOP leadership. Minutes after the first leaks appeared last week about the Obama budget proposing to change in the way the CPI is calculated so that payments to Social Security recipients would be lowered, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) denounced both the chained CPI proposal and the administration’s efforts to tie that change to additional revenues. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) then repeated the denunciation on CNBC later in the week.