On Valentine’s Day, Paul Krugman’s blog, Conscience Of A Liberal, carried his summary of the president’s proposed budget. (If I were Obama, this isn’t a valentine I would like to read any time soon.) [Here]
There was an old Washingtoon [comic strip] from the mid-1980s, in which Democrats meet to plan their new centrist strategy — which consists of tax cuts for the rich, reduced spending on the needy, and big defense budgets. “But how is this different from the Republicans?” asks one member of the group. “Compassion,” replies the leader. “We care about the victims of our policies.
That’s pretty much my initial reaction to what we know so far about the Obama budget. It’s much less awful than the Republican proposal [Here], but it moves in the same direction: listening to the administration, you’d think that discretionary spending, not health care, is at the heart of our long-run deficit problems — and you’d also think that the job of rescuing the economy was done, with unemployment still at 9 percent.
It could be worse — the GOP proposal is — but it’s hardly something to cheer about.
Now that the Obama budget has been released, the political games will begin.
One of the first games, as Huffpost’s Sam Stein points out, [Here] is for the President to point out that this budget cuts will affect programs that had been an important part of his own life. For example, Obama is proposing cutting in half the $700 million dollar block grant program, for which he worked before being elected to the Illinois Senate. He is also proposing that graduate students begin owing interest on their student loans while they are studying. (Obama made a big fuss about just paying off his student loans.)
Perhaps the cruelest Obama proposal is the one to cut $2.5 billion dollars from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. This is money to heat and cool the homes of the poor. You might have read that Sen. Kerry blew up at this proposal and wrote a letter of protest to the President, asking him to reconsider. [Here] In view of what the current winter has been like, this is a particularly heartless proposal.
And dare I ask where are the belt-tightening proposals for the rich?
Yes, indeed! The games have begun.