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Idea of the Day: The President’s Latest Budget Is Constrained by Political Limits

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President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2014 budget is unlike any previous presidential budget request in recent history. It is not a statement of the president’s vision for the federal budget. It does not represent what he thinks is the best course of action for spending, taxation, and broader federal fiscal policy. It is not, in short, his preferred budget plan. Rather, for the first time ever, it is a preemptive compromise budget.

It includes more than $1 trillion in additional spending cuts, on top of the $1.9 trillion that the president has already accepted and signed into law. It includes significant changes to entitlement programs, as well as further cuts to a portion of the budget that was already cut down to historic lows. And it includes far less new revenue than the president has called for in the past. All told, President Obama’s compromise budget would raise less revenue and set government spending at approximately the same levels as the much-ballyhooed bipartisan plan proposed by former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles in 2010. By that standard, the president’s compromise budget is to the right of Simpson-Bowles.

And yet, for all the president’s willingness to make major concessions, conservative leaders in Congress already appear to have rejected the compromise out of hand. Last Friday before the full budget was even released, House Speaker John Boehner characterized it as “no way to lead and move the country forward.”

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This is part of a regular column: Idea of the Day

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