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Obama’s ‘Framework’ Folly



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Is the president’s new budget “plan” — announced at an April 13 speech at George Washington University — really a more serious proposal than his initial one? Or is it still the same financial gimmickry and budgetary nonsense repackaged to sound sensible when read from a teleprompter?

Once it became clear that the president intended to ignore a request from Senate Republicans to submit a revised budget proposal that would incorporate — in detail — the elements he outlined in his speech and “framework,” GOP staff on the Senate Budget Committee had a go at analyzing the information available. As it turns out, Obama’s February budget and his April “framework” are essentially the same thing.

Predictably, the president’s “framework” completely ignores the CBO’s revised scoring of his budget, and continues to assume $2.2 trillion in deficit reduction over ten years, or $2.9 trillion when extrapolated to fit the president’s new (and bizarre) twelve-year window. This would appear to indicate that Obama is proposing $1.1 trillion in additional savings; he claims to reach $4 trillion over twelve years. So how does he plan to save that money?

The most obvious difference between the president’s February budget and his April “framework” is the inclusion of new savings under the FY2011 “budget deal” or continuing resolution, which reduced annual spending by about $80 billion compared with the president’s (never enacted) budget request for this year. Here’s what the “framework” states:

The first step in our approach is to keep annual domestic spending low by building on the savings that both parties agreed to last week. That step alone will save us about $750 billion over 12 years.

Therefore, almost three-quarters of the Obama’s “new” savings comes not from any new reductions, but from the spending cuts already included in a budget deal that he and his party vociferously opposed, initially calling it “draconian” and “unworkable.”

According to the “framework,” the remaining $300 billion or so in savings will be achieved through additional reductions in interest payments on the debt, a possibility that is difficult to assess in the absence of a detailed proposal.

It also calls for a tax increase of about $1 trillion, but that was already included in his budget. As far as entitlement spending is concerned, while Obama in his speech acknowledged that Medicare spending was unsustainable at current levels, he did not offer any new, specific plans to confront the problem — other than to call for an faster and more aggressive roll-out of Obamacare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board, the much-touted “panel of experts” that will cut costs by paying doctors less, and thus indirectly rationing care.

All told, Obama’s new “plan” is not a do-over at all, but merely a repackaged version of his fundamentally unserious budget proposal, the biggest difference being that he incorporated the substantial savings from the FY 2011 spending resolution that he opposed. It’s not surprising, then, that the GOP’s analysis reveals the president’s “framework” will — in accordance with the baseline established by the CBO — fail to meet its goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction over twelve years, and would actually increase the deficit by $2.2 trillion.

Or as Senator Sessions said on the floor: “The American people deserve an honest, fact-based budget. Instead the president’s deficit speech was the biggest gimmick yet.”

 



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