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Revealed: Bucking Republicans, Obama’s 2015 budget to call for end to austerity

By John Byrne
Friday, February 21, 2014 10:27 EDT
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President Barack Obama speaks to members of Organizing for Action (AFP)
 
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No more Mr. Nice Guy.

After years of negotiations with Republicans over the U.S. budget, President Barack Obama is setting off on his own course.

Obama’s 2015 budget, due in early March, could make the end of an era for Democrats. In recent years, Democrats have taken up much of the language of Republicans, whose arguments to control government spending have effectively meant the loss of benefits for millions of Americans. The trend began to emerge strongly in the 1990s under President Bill Clinton, and has become a plank of Democratic campaigns when fending off attacks from the right.

Obama’s new budget won’t make the same call for cuts. Instead, it will provide funding for manufacturing institutes, job training, energy efficiency and education for preschoolers. The budget was first reported by The Washington Post.

Specifically, Obama will provide $56 billion for what is deemed an “Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative,” an influx of capital to be split between defense and domestic programs, particularly manufacturing; awards for states that promote energy efficiency; new job training programs; and expanded educational programs for preschoolers. Most of the president’s priorities will likely face resistance from Republicans over their size, though some Republicans have embraced more funding for tots.

Obama plans to include some elements of a so-called “grand bargain” that lawmakers struggled to pass last year. Notable among them are efforts to force wealthier seniors to pay more for Medicare coverage. He’s also expected to propose corporate tax rules to prevent companies from moving profits overseas to dodge U.S. taxes and limit corporations’ ability to deduct interest expenses from borrowing in the U.S. and then investing the money overseas.

In the Post, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) decried the new budget plan.

“This reaffirms what has become all too apparent: the president has no interest in doing anything, even modest, to address our looming debt crisis,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said. “The one and only idea the president has to offer is even more job-destroying tax hikes, and that non-starter won’t do anything to save the entitlement programs that are critical to so many Americans.”

In fact, however, that deficit “crisis” has become less immediate. According to the Congressional Budget Office, which conducts nonpartisan studies of proposed laws and other programs for the government, the deficit will drop to $514 billion this year and $478 billion the next. But while the near-future looks rosier — the U.S. ran deficits of nearly a trillion during the Iraq war and financial crisis — the U.S. isn’t out of the woods: the deficit is expected to increase after  fiscal 2016.

The national debt, which is different from the deficit, stands at slightly greater than $17 trillion. The debt represents the total the U.S. borrows to support operations, where the deficit is the gap between U.S. spending and borrowing in a given year. Though it has increased significantly under Obama, many of President George W. Bush’s initiatives moved the needle further: the $874 Obama Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed after the financial crisis dwarfed the impact of Bush’s tax cuts, at $1.8 trillion. The Act was also just shy of the total spent during the Bush years on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, at $853 billion.

Obama’s budget will be released by Mar. 4.

 [Photo credit: AFP]

 
 
 
 
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