Two months late and $8.2 trillion short, President Obama's fiscal year 2014 budget blueprint finally arrived on Capitol Hill. While the unveiling of the White House budget is usually the first event of the yearly budget season, its arrival well after passage of the House Republican budget makes the contrast between the two plans even more dramatic.
Bottom line: The House Republican plan balances the budget in 10 years, and President Obama's budget never achieves balance at all. If that sounds familiar, it's because his previous budgets also failed to balance, and the Senate Democrat budget -- the first they have produced in almost four years -- also does not ever achieve balance.
A close examination of the numbers provides an even more vivid comparison. The Path to Prosperity Budget, which was released by the House Budget Committee in February and passed in March, reduces the deficit by $4.6 trillion over the next 10 years. The president's plan piles on $8.2 trillion in new debt. The White House claims that the plan cuts $1.4 trillion, yet once all the budget gimmicks are peeled away, the proposal actually trims only $119 billion from the deficit. In an article titled "Obama's budget fantasyland," Politico reporter David Nather describes several examples of budgetary "sleight of hand," including establishing a budget baseline that assumes the sequester cuts never happened, as well as counting phony savings based on spending cuts that will never take place and $675 billion in savings from war spending that was never allocated in the first place.
By submitting a budget that never achieves balance, President Obama has once again failed the most basic requirement of fiscally responsible governance. Raising taxes by $1 trillion and adding $1 trillion in new spending is not the approach we need to overcome our national debt and create jobs.
The closest the budget comes to fiscal responsibility is endorsement of modest reforms to Social Security and Medicare. Without substantial reform, these programs are headed for certain bankruptcy that will jeopardize benefits for seniors and potentially take down the entire economy. This budget marks the first time the president has publicly proposed specific entitlement reforms. The endorsement of "chained CPI," an updated method for calculating inflation for Social Security benefits, would save only $230 billion and fall far short of the structural changes necessary to prevent the program from going bankrupt in 2033. Reductions to Medicare spending, headed for bankruptcy in 2024, are also minor. Yet even these mild reform proposals have sparked protests from MoveOn.org and liberal members of Congress, who are already picketing the White House and decrying the tiny cuts as "inhumane," "reprehensible," and "Dickensian."
The president himself seems somewhat less than fully committed to reforming the safety net programs, publicly suggesting that he will only support the reforms if they are paired with higher taxes. However, the fact that the proposals were included in the budget at all is a significant and positive step forward. After including major entitlement reforms in the three budgets we've passed since 2011, House Republicans welcome this new opportunity to begin the urgent process of reform to save these programs and prevent a debt crisis.
The differences between the two sides are vast. Yet now that all plans are on the table -- including the Democratic Senate's first budget in four years -- Congress can move forward in the process to implement budget policies to create jobs and reduce the debt.