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Obama’s Budget: A Campaign Document, but One That Works

Policies proposed in budget are widely supported by voters


Even before the Barack Obama administration released its official budget blueprint, Republicans both on and off the campaign trail were roundly denouncing it as nothing more than a campaign document. They are outraged at the higher taxes, lack of entitlement reform and short-term spending.

While the four GOP primary contestants continue to rail against Obama’s record and ideas, they do so at their own peril with regard to general election voters.

Obama’s budget blueprint is filled with some of the same ideas he has been advocating since September and crystallized in the State of the Union address on Jan. 24. Among other things, he wants to spend more on education, job-training and infrastructure. He also wants to extend the payroll tax holiday and subsidize companies to keep jobs in America.

He also wants to raise taxes on the wealthiest by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for households that make over $250,000 a year and create some sort of 30% minimum tax for households that make over $1 million a year.

These ideas may be anathema to GOP primary voters, but they are very popular with the public, as this table shows:

The Republican response to this budget is basically that it does not do enough to cut spending, reign in the deficit and fundamentally reform entitlement programs. It also violates GOP orthodoxy of never raising taxes for any reason, even on the wealthiest among us.

While the righteous indignation of the GOP might fuel the fire of Romney, Santorum, Gingrich and Paul on their quest for the party’s nomination, it will ultimately fail the eventual nominee. These candidates will be forced to denounce spending on teachers and firefighters, job-training programs and new roads while simultaneously advocating for low tax rates on the very rich.

While the GOP rightly clamors for long-term entitlement reform, their cries will continue to reverberate in an echo chamber until they agree to some form of tax increase, a move that is vehemently opposed by all 4 remaining candidates. It is not only a matter of math (increasing revenue and decreasing spending are the only way forward on deficit reduction), it is also a matter of negotiation.

Democrats have already come forward to embrace spending cuts, as evidenced last summer in the debt-ceiling fights. In fact, Obama’s budget reflects the bipartisan agreement to cap discretionary spending and reduce deficits by $4 trillion over 10 years. Republicans must abandon their obsession with avoiding talk of tax increases.

GOP leadership has tried to make the case that the very rich are job creators and taxing them will only increase unemployment. However, the American public is not buying this line of reasoning, nor should we.

While the gridlock of this Congress and election-year politics ensure that President Obama’s budget is nothing more than a set of talking points, Republicans are digging themselves into a hole it will be hard to climb out of once they pivot to the general election.

The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.

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