On Monday, President Obama released his recommended budget for fiscal year 2012 to a firestorm of criticism. Democrats were upset that social programs like a home energy assistance program for low-income Americans came under the knife. Republicans were upset the cuts didn’t go far enough. A freeze on non-defense discretionary spending—the part of the budget Congress has to approve every year—can only go so far, and conspicuously absent from Obama’s budget was any attempt to reform entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security, which make up more than half of federal spending. “I’m not suggesting we don’t have to do more,” Obama said at a press conference today. “If you look at the history of how these deals get done, typically it’s not because there’s an Obama plan out there. It’s because Democrats and Republicans are both committed to tackling this issue in a serious way.”
Some criticize the president for punting the issue. “It was an unconvincing and uninspired performance because he has a message that isn't defensible,” writes Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin. “You see, he really isn't serious about real fiscal discipline.”
But others share the president’s reasoning, suggesting that if he had slashed entitlement programs in his initial proposal, he would have been painting a target on his back for 2012 campaigners. This way, they say, both sides can negotiate with less of the political spin machine at work. Robert Greenstein, executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, agrees. “Floating proposals that swiftly get blown up as politicians jockey for political advantage does not advance the cause of fiscal responsibility,” he writes.
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