Obama’s Budget Dilemma: How the New Proposal is a Sad Indicator of the Current Political Climate

Evelyn Crunden ’13
Features Editor-at-Large

In a move that has drawn ire and censure from both the left and right, Obama’s attempts to pander to the center have left his proposed budget proposal for the upcoming year a sore subject for his own party. Changes to Medicare and Social Security have been offered up, and the $1.8 trillion cut in deficits implicit in the $3.77 trillion budget have raised more than a few eyebrows. Certain elements of the budget have drawn praise from Democrats (such as spending on early childhood education) but the proposal has nonetheless remained controversial and re-ignited the now five-year debate surrounding Obama’s ongoing tendencies towards pandering and centrism.

Though he ran on a bipartisan platform, it remains true to form that Democrats and liberals alike expect something from the president they have thrown money, time and support at over the years. His support for “chained CPI,” a method of measuring inflation, has been among the leading causes for concern for party. This new approach would slow any growth in the federal benefits usually adjusted every year to accommodate the current cost of living; as these benefits include Social Security, the proposed changes have understandably been met with hostile reception and a considerable amount of concern.

Republicans, on the other hand, have been eyeing the other component of chained CPI: the estimated average tax increase of over $300 among over 80 percent of the households facing the tax increase to begin with over the next decade. These numbers have left conservatives hostile to a proposal that already has liberals displeased and once again puts the president in the position of having made concessions for very little gain. On the other hand, the White House estimates that the switch will raise over $230 billion over the course of the upcoming decade, thereby slowly aiding the damage done by the recession and a massive debt.

With the White House arguing for the switch, and Republicans and Democrats alike critiquing the proposition, the country’s government is, as usual, at a standstill. With a quibbling legislature that cannot find peace within itself, let alone with the executive branch, American politics has become something of a playground war over recent years. The ultimate takeaway from Obama’s presidency should not be one of infighting and lame-duck attempts at hindering all legislation. Unfortunately, it seems to be heading that way, and though Obama does not hold sole blame for that, he does deserve a certain amount of it.

Support from Democrats has always come relatively easy for the Obama administration, but in recent years it has waned significantly, in no small part due to frustration with fruitless attempts to appeal to the right. Republicans, on the other hand, continuously find fault with the administration’s policies, and rarely find themselves on the supporting end of any proposed legislation and policy.

This is all much less a commentary on the budget proposal itself and much more one on bickering and infighting. Both the House and Senate have failed abysmally in their respective jobs to display maturity and a willingness to engage in dialogue. That does not, however, mean that the White House should concede to the same failings. Constantly looking to balance opposing viewpoints is hardly helping the Obama administration and is building a culture of pandering and complacency. The administration needs to reassess its approach to negotiations, and also to compromise. Hopefully then we can see real change in our government.

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