April 9, 2013

President Obama will send a new budget proposal to the Hill this week.  The proposal will have many of the same things the president has proposed before –- mostly in private session with the GOP.  This time, it all goes on paper as a balanced proposal taking spending away from many different sources but maintaining investment in crucial government programs that have the most potential to promote job growth.

Everything the president does in this budget is geared that way — toward strengthening the middle class by creating jobs and growing the economy.  The budget will detail how we can invest in the things we need to attract more jobs to our shores, equip our people with the skills they need and ensure that hard work leads to a decent living – without adding a dime to the deficit.

Importantly, the president’s budget will also include his previous compromise offer to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ill.) to reduce the deficit by $1.8 trillion by cutting spending, finding savings in entitlement programs and raising revenue by asking the wealthiest to pay their fair share.

Consistent with that offer, the president’s budget proposal would overall reduce the deficit by $1.8 trillion over 10 years.  Together with more than $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction we have already achieved, the budget, if enacted, would bring total deficit reduction to more than $4.3 trillion over 10 years and put us on a fiscally sustainable path, with debt declining as a share of the economy.

Now several progressives, myself included, think that the cuts in the president’s budget go farther than they should.  But I will support them if we see similar sacrifice on the tax side of the equation. And of course, if we maintain a commitment to reduce defense spending.    That means that the items such as CPI, which Republican leaders have pushed hard for, will be acceptable only if congressional Republicans are willing to do more on revenue.

This shouldn’t be about political horsetrading; it’s about reducing the deficit in a balanced way that economists say is best for the economy and job creation. The president’s offer isn’t a menu of options to choose from; it’s a cohesive package that reflects the balance of the discussions of the last few years.

What won’t be acceptable, however, is if Boehner tries to go back to square one and insist on his way or the highway.  As presidential aide Dan Pfeiffer put so well this past Sunday, the president won reelection. And he did it after a full debate on the issues.  We’re just not going to go backward and enact the “Romney Budget” plan that the country has already rejected.  So Mr. Speaker, you have another chance this week.  You can choose to lead, or you can continue to help the GOP lead this country down a dangerous path of slow growth and no effective deficit reduction.

It’s too bad I am certain I already know which path you will choose.