On Tuesday, the White House released its proposed 2015 budget, a document that The Los Angeles Times describes as "policies far more likely to be written into a campaign ad than a federal law." The $3.9 trillion proposal fits squarely within President Obama's recent policy push: ending tax loopholes for the wealthy to increase spending for infrastructure and to expand a key tax break for low-income Americans. Which is precisely the sort of trade-off that Democrats hope to pitch on the 2014 campaign trail.
If you're interested and have some spare time, you're welcome to peruse the whole document. If you're not, here are some of the key proposals:
- Remove tax loopholes for the wealthy. Obama calls for taxing certain hedge fund and private equity earnings as income instead of capital gains, which are taxed at a lower rate, as Time reports. It would also eliminate a loophole that lets some individual income be claimed as corporate profit to avoid payroll taxes.
- Enact the "Buffett Rule." The by-now-infamous Buffett Rule would ensure that those making more than a million dollars in income annually pay the same amount in taxes as those in the middle class. The various tax changes proposed would result in about $1 trillion in new funding, according to The Washington Post.
- An expansion to the earned-income tax credit for low-income taxpayers. As USA Today notes, the Obama proposal would expand the EITC to cover people aged 21 to 24, 65, and 66. In total, 5.8 million more Americans would be eligible for the credit. In addition 7.7 million would see an expanded EITC, which reduces the amount of taxes owed.
- Simplifying and reducing other tax credits and grants. CBS News reports on a few other proposed tweaks: "expanding the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, targeted to families with children under age five … [and] proposing simplifying taxes for Pell Grant recipients and providing tax relief to people with student loan debt."
- More funding for infrastructure. Obama proposes $302 billion in funding for surface transportation and $10 billion for intercity transit systems.
- Funding for Obama's "Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative." Obama proposes increasing funding for energy research, the FDA, preschool programs, and the National Institutes of Health.
- Increased funding for the IRS and HHS. Obama proposes $80 billion for the embattled Department of Health and Human services and a six percent increase in funding for the IRS.
- Update: Talking Points Memo notes a somewhat amusing inclusion. Obama suggests closing a loophole that would let people work around the amount of money they could keep in IRAs — made famous by none other than Mitt Romney.
It's impossible not to consider Obama's proposal in the light of Rep. Paul Ryan's report issued on Monday which calls government spending on poverty programs into question. (Which is, of course, why Ryan released his budget on Monday.) Ryan, the head of the House Budget Committee, is clearly embracing the contrast between his party's proposals and Obama's. And he's in the advantageous position of getting to respond to Obama's proposal, which Ryan will release later this month.
Ryan and the House hold the key to the process, and the Senate won't introduce a budget resolution. Obama introduced one olive branch to Ryan and his peers, suggesting that a much-debated adjustment to Social Security costs, chained CPI, could be considered as part of a compromise. But a compromise is unlikely, making this, as the Los Angeles Times pointed out, mostly a statement of ideals. Just in time for November.