Next month, President Obama will release his 2015 budget, proposing an increase in spending and tax revenue that would bring the government to pre-sequestration funding levels. The long version is this: Obama finally appears to be done playing the "compromise" game.
- Start with the baseline budget established in the Ryan-Murray deal from December of $1.014 trillion in total spending.
- Add $56 billion in spending on "some of Mr. Obama’s key initiatives," as the Times puts it, in an effort called the "Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative." The funding includes money for education, manufacturing programs, and job training.
- Make up for that $56 billion in additional spending by "closing certain tax loopholes and trimming defense and nondefense spending," per the Journal.
- But there's no longer an offer to include "chained CPI" for the Social Security program, which would have been a rejiggering of how benefits payments are increased tied to a different growth index.
The chained CPI detail was the one that pundits paid attention to on Thursday, largely because it was an area that it seemed in previous years could offer the chance for compromise between the White House and Capitol Hill Republicans. Politico reports that it is precisely because the White House has lost faith in compromise that it killed the proposal. It "was what they called a show of good faith, made in the aftermath of the fiscal cliff deal and with the sequester cuts looming." But since "Republicans took no steps toward serious negotiations in response," the administration dropped it.
As the Huffington Post's Sam Stein points out, the combination of the Ryan-Murray compromise and the new spending brings government spending back to pre-sequestration levels. Or, rather, it would, if Obama's budget were adopted. Stein also makes that important point: "The president's budget is unlikely to pass, making debate over its contents largely overstated." This is true. Even the Ryan-Murray compromise was the hard-won result of the Republican House and Democratic Senate passing different, non-Obama-proposed budgets — forced into compromise by the shockwave of the government shutdown. The outlined budget is a statement by Obama more than a proposal. And he's saying: no more pretense of compromise, no more sequestration.
And as Alex Seitz-Wald at the National Journal notes, he's also saying "no more deficit hand-wringing." He's not alone in moving away from the issue.
You can see it on the House and Senate floors where, last month, Republicans uttered the word "debt" just 225 times, down from 3,188 mentions in July 2011, according to the Sunlight Foundation. You could see it in President Obama's latest State of the Union address, which mentioned budget deficits almost two-thirds fewer times than his 2011 speech.
The graph at right shows how the federal budget deficit has changed over time. Since 2010, it has dropped dramatically.
The Times got a statement from House Speaker John Boehner's office. "With three years left in office, it seems the president is already throwing in the towel" on working with Republicans, spokesman Brendan Buck told the paper. There's some irony in that. Earlier this week, the House Republican caucus essentially appeared to throw in the towel on 2014 (with 11 months left!) after being unable to reach consensus on tough issues between its right- and far-right wings. It's sort of amazing everyone hadn't given up on compromise long before now.