The White House released its budget plan this morning. It's a long, dense document full of charts and tables that describe President Obama's spending and tax proposals for the next year. Here are seven things you absolutely need to know about it.
- Think of this budget as more of a wish list.
Presidential budgets are political documents. There’s little chance that Congress will approve any of these measures during a contentious mid-term election year. Moreover, spending levels for fiscal 2015 are already set, and House Republicans are already drafting a budget that ignores many of Obama’s funding requests. For more on why this budget matters even less than usual, read Lori Montgomery’s take.
- The budget looks to reduce debt primarily by raising revenue.
Obama’s budget sees debt shrinking to 69 percent of the size of the economy by 2024 if all of his policies were implemented. By comparison, the Congressional Budget Office projects that current policies would lead to the debt rising to 79 percent of the size of the economy by 2024. The difference rests primarily in revenue increases, including the elimination of tax loopholes that primarily benefit the wealthy.
- Projections aside, only one date matters: Nov. 4, 2014
The budget projects deficits and expenditures out to 2024, but in reality the White House is focused on the mid-term elections this year. The budget is chock-full of populist ideas intended to motivate the Democratic base and provide a policy blueprint for Democratic candidates going into November.
- The budget follows a traditional liberal economic playbook: Higher taxes, higher spending
Obama proposes more than $1 trillion in new taxes to slow borrowing over the next decade – with much of the burden falling on major businesses and the wealth. That would make it easier to restore spending to many domestic programs -- which are in line for deep cuts after 2015 -- and invest in new areas.
- The plan revisits many policy proposals from years prior
Among them: Raise tobacco taxes to pay for universal pre-K. Impose a "Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee" on big banks. Overhaul the nation's immigration laws, which would produce a $158 billion windfall for the Treasury. Even the president's deficit-reduction ideas have been offered before, from limiting itemized deductions for the rich to forcing drug companies to offer big rebates on Medicare prescriptions.
- The budget also contains new proposals that will probably go nowhere
Obama proposes a $56 billion "Opportunity, Growth and Security" initiative, which includes new spending on defense, early childhood education, job-training and medical research, among other priorities. If enacted, the initiative would be paid for by capping the amount wealthy people can save tax-free for retirement, cutting crop insurance and raising airline security fees, among other changes. But it likely won't be enacted after lawmakers only barely got a budget deal done this year.
- We’ll also be hearing a lot about inequality and opportunity in 2014
Among the expenditures requested in the budget are $76 billion for early childhood education and $60 billion for an expansion of the earned income tax credit. The EITC, which offers incentives for low-income individuals to work, is popular with a number of leading conservatives, including House Budget Committee Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Look to the release of his budget in a few weeks to gauge conservative reaction.