President Obama plans to execute his ambitious agenda to promoteÂ “opportunity for all”Â by the numbers.
The presidentÂ on Tuesday sent CongressÂ a $3.9 trillion budgetÂ plan thatÂ proposesÂ increased spending forÂ his domestic priorities -Â education, job training, infrastructure and health care, among others -Â and seeks toÂ finance such initiativesÂ by eliminating tax breaks forÂ wealthy Americans,Â corporations and the like.Â Instead ofÂ deficit reduction being its primary focus, Obama’sÂ fiscal year 2015 budget, whichÂ starts on Oct. 1,Â would continue hisÂ missionÂ to address income inequality and offer opportunitiesÂ for economic uplift. Administration officialsÂ maintain that it also targets programs to advance low- and middle-income African American families, includingÂ funding for college educationÂ and minority businesses.
With the looming mid-term elections, the president’s proposalÂ marks the beginning of yet anotherÂ battle with theÂ GOP. AlthoughÂ the Republican-led Congress willÂ most certainly jam the measure, Democrats will use the planÂ to sway voters by painting the opposition as the draconian alternative.
The White House de-emphasized deficit reduction in their budget offering due to math and stats. For instance, administration officials recentlyÂ noted such urgencyÂ has been eased byÂ theÂ independent Congressional Budget Office forecast last month thatÂ theÂ federal deficit will come in at $514 billion for fiscal 2014 – the lowest level since ObamaÂ took officeÂ five years ago.Â Moreover, a February Gallup poll revealedÂ that only 8% of Americans viewed budget or deficit issues as the mainÂ challengeÂ confronting our nation.
The fact that the president decided not to tackleÂ changes in mammoth entitlement programs like a reduction in Social Security cost-of-living-increases – a point of negotiation with the GOP duringÂ theÂ start of his second term – has rankled scores of legislators across the aisle. But afterÂ years of spending cuts, tax increases and economic growth, the Obama budget projects that the federal deficit willÂ fall to $649 billion in 2014 and then to $564 billion in 2015 – less than halfÂ of the $1.2 trillion deficit thatÂ Obama inherited when he entered the Oval Office.
“Our budget is about choices, it’s about our values,” Obama stressed as heÂ visited potentialÂ beneficiaries at a Washington, D.C. elementary school. “As a country we’ve got to make a decision if we’re going to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans or if we’re going to make smart investments necessary to create jobs and grow our economy, and expand opportunity for every American.”
“At a time when our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years,” heÂ continued “we got to decide if we’re going to keep squeezing the middle class, or if we’re going to continue to reduce deficits responsibly while taking steps to grow and strengthen the middle class. The American people have made clear time and again which approach they prefer – that’s the approach my budget offers.”
In a written statement, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)Â has clearly drawnÂ budget battle lines:Â “After years of fiscal and economic mismanagement, the president has offered perhaps his most irresponsible budget yet. American families looking for jobs and opportunity will find only more government in this plan. Spending too much, borrowing too much, and taxing too much, it would hurt our economy and cost jobs.”
The GOP will continue to employ such rhetoric toÂ batter Obama’sÂ fiscal credibility, especially when Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wisconsin), chairman of the House Budget Committee and former vice presidential candidate, presentsÂ the GOP plan next month.
DuringÂ his speech at the DemocraticÂ National Committee Winter meeting last week in Washington, D.C.,Â ObamaÂ addressed such assertions even beforeÂ unveilingÂ his budget:Â “Just last month, their party actually madeÂ it a part of their platform to let folks at the very top play by a different set of rules, and avoid paying their fair share by stashing their money in overseas tax havens, a practice that also adds billions to our deficits every year.”Â In fact, the president plans to offset the costÂ of his massive program, in part,Â by imposing a federal tax on tobacco products and overhauling the corporate tax code toÂ eliminate loopholes.
The White House further arguesÂ its budget “builds on bipartisan progress,” adhering to the 2015 spending levels that Democrats and Republicans agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. The administration also maintainsÂ thatÂ they’ve fully paid for theÂ Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative, split evenly between defense and non-defense programs.
According to the White House, the plan will fundÂ a myriad ofÂ initiatives that shouldÂ prove beneficial forÂ large numbers of minority businesses and African American families. They include investment inÂ a national network of 45 advanced manufacturing hubs; funding small businesses by offeringÂ billions in loan guarantees;Â expansion ofÂ the Earned Income Tax Credit for childless workers from $500 to $1,000;Â continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act; and supporting early childhood education andÂ K-12Â programs as well asÂ providing funding forÂ College Success GrantsÂ for students at HBCUs and other “minority-serving Â institutions.”
If Obama can retain much of his budget plan, he can demonstrate that governmentÂ action can spur job creation, industrial innovation and economic growth.Â But with toughÂ opposition in the Republican-controlled Congress,Â he will have to make some sharp maneuversÂ to gain the numbers to pull it off.