Why President Obama's 2015 Budget Plan Has Big Dreams, But Little Chance Of Becoming Law

It's budget day in Washington: President Obama's 2015 budget proposal was unveiled Tuesday, following rumblings weeks ago that it would not include discussed cuts to Social Security benefits. And indeed, it doesn't — chained CPI is out, and an extra $56 billion in federal spending is in. And in the biggest surprise of 2014 so far, the Republican Party doesn't think this is such a good way to move forward.

And in this instance, they don't need to. Thanks to last December's passage of the Murray-Ryan budget deal, spending levels are laid out for both this year and the next, meaning however important these priorities may be to the President, it can all be tidily ignored by Congress, consequence-free. Very little of Obama's budget package is likely to make it into law, serving instead as a presidential "wish list" and outlining of Democratic goals.

Speaking at a Democratic National Committee event last week, Obama pledged to put forward a budget emphasizing renewed manufacturing, energy and infrastructure; insisting that "we'll pay for every dime of it by cutting unnecessary spending, closing wasteful tax loopholes." This turned out to be largely true, though not entirely: While half of the increased spending would be offset by imposing new rules on upper-income retirement account tax breaks, $5 billion will be recouped by increasing TSA passenger fees for commercial flights; and another $3 billion by making sure people can't receive disability and unemployment insurance at the same time.

The latter could be construed as wasteful spending, certainly, but cutting access to forms of social or employment insurance is probably not what Democratic constituency was expecting — much less new fees for airline passengers.

The major points of the President's ideal 2015 budget:

  • The Defense budget would hold tight at $495 billion, approximately the same level at which it was set last year.
  • Obama's 2014 call for universal pre-kindergarten lives on, including an expansion of the Head Start program funded by an increase to ever-escalating tobacco taxes.
  • A big expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, requiring some $60 billion over the next ten years, paid for by closure of upper-income tax loopholes.
  • The production of five more hubs between high-tech businesses and universities proficient at research, in addition to the four previously launched. The grand Obama vision on this front is for 45 more such hubs over the course of the next decade — better hope for a Democratic president on that one.

Republicans are, well, opposed to all of this, on the stated grounds that it's yet more irresponsible, big-government spending that neglects the jobs needs of the citizenry.

So says House Speaker John Boehner:

Of course, it's also President Obama, a person with whom the Republican Party does not now, nor has, nor likely ever will have a shred of interest in good-faith or even-keeled collaboration. And with this budget plan, at least, they don't really need to.