Two years into his second term in office, President Barack Obama is proposing a budget that, for once, does not provoke a partisan showdown just eight months before the 2014 midterm elections. Contrary to how his administration has hitherto acted, the president is attempting to pass quick-moving legislation.
In 2009, there was an immense push to overhaul healthcare which was the president’s signature healthcare law – the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA). In 2010, amidst protests from the self-proclaimed “99%”, he fought to suffocate Wall Street under layers of legislative red tape and redundant, unnecessary regulation. In 2011 and 2012 he attempted to increase taxes to offset the nation’s seemingly ever-climbing debt. In 2013, there was no movement by the president to cease automatic spending cuts. Going forth into the political fray of 2014, this peace-time budget, in an election year, shows that electoral battles will be during campaigns and not on the floor of the House or the Senate.
President Obama is proposing this budget and backing off big-ticket items before the 2014 midterm to redirect political pressure away from the West Wing and onto electoral districts.
The president stated last week that 2013 was a year of fiscal austerity. While the notion of austerity measures last year may be hard to comprehend for some due to the fact that the country’s debt is rising faster each day. Even more so when Senate Democrats rejected a Republican effort to articulate and pass official austerity measures. Nonetheless, to the delight of Democrats, this budget proposal will not be as fiscally strict as last year.
With last year’s October government shutdown, both Democrats and Republicans have bad taste in their mouths after being ridiculed by public opinion and political infighting. Even though the threat of a shutdown will not emerged until spring of 2015, a constant weariness shows that neither side is willing to entertain the game of brinkmanship again.
Obama’s new fiscal schematic for the budget that begins October 1st proposes a spending $56 billion above the cap from the bipartisan deal earlier this year. The president states that the surge in spending will not increase the federal deficit because he proposes program cuts and eliminating tax breaks to cover the spread.
His proposal includes bringing in more revenue through stricter tax laws for domestic companies that have foreign operations and for foreign corporations that have divisions here in the U.S. Obama has fervently stated throughout his tenure in office that he labels such loopholes in the tax code as tax avoidance schemes.
Next week, the president will send a budget to Congress that he states, “will create new jobs in manufacturing and energy and innovation and infrastructure.” For the last few months the administration has touted new opportunities in manufacturing and green energy.
A day before the president revealed parts of his budget to the Democratic National Committee, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) offered his own summary of his party’s message regarding the economy. “We’ve seen more and more that the president has no interest in doing the big things that he got elected to do,” he stated. Boehner explained that the president’s budget does not address the main factors contributing to the nations increasing debt and deficit. He cited the ACA as one the most important issues to voters in the coming 2014 midterms.
The $56 billion budget overage is divided evenly between domestic programs and defense spending. This plan includes an expansion of an earned income tax credit that aides low-income families to support their children. This program, which is supported by some Republicans, would provide more financial aid in the way of tax credits.
Obama’s proposal for domestic entitlement increase, consequently, is directly contingent on defense spending. This move puts pressure on defense-minded Republicans that restricts the Pentagon’s efforts to monitor and snuff out potential national security threats. Sequestration cuts have injured the morale of the Defense Department. Though, with the federal spending intertwined, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel stated that the money flowing in would replace the funds cut through automatic cuts due to sequester. The revitalized spending would allow the Pentagon to increase training and improving weapons systems for aircraft and ground forces.
These proposals are part of an initial international effort by directing economies to limit the aforementioned loopholes in the tax code as what the president called tax avoidance schemes. Some in the administration stated that the extra tax revenue could be a small part of a much broader tax overhaul that would be used to reduce corporate tax rates. However, such proposal would unlikely seen any movement from the administration to Congress this year.
Senior policy analyst Chris Krueger stated that the general consensus from House Republicans and Senate Democrats seems to be, “stay on midterm message, appease the base, and run out the clock.” Common ground may be the major theme of the rest of the congressional year as many in the House and Senate risk losing their seats in the legislature. In the midst of the 2014 elections, non-controversial bill proposals are necessary for either party to anchor public opinion, as well as being political productive. As Obama promotes non-partisan budget proposals, a bipartisan effort could be achieved that will alleviate the fears of a do-nothing Congress.
By: Alex Lemieux