Conservatives: Obama’s budget plan a 2014 vote gambit

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama is scheduled to release his 2014 budget plan Wednesday, several weeks after the House and Senate already decided on their versions of the nation’s long-term budget.

But the late budget plan is really an early piece of Obama’s election-day plan for November 2014, say GOP staffers.

“A big part” of his budget plan is positioning for the 2014 mid-term election, said Michael Franc, vice president of government studies at the Heritage Foundation.

To win the House for Rep. Nancy Pelosi and to keep the Senate under Sen. Harry Reid, these staffers say, Obama needs to spur turnout by disappointed Democrats in the 2014 election, just as he did in 2012.

The likely target-blocs are independents who worry about jobs and the deficit, plus Democrats who usually miss mid-term elections, such as some suburban women, plus many Latino and African-American voters.

Given their ability to rally supporters in 2012, “I wouldn’t put it past them” to do the same in 2014, Franc told The Daily Caller. “They may find a way to tweak the right emotional buttons,” he said.

Obama is already using calls for gun-curbs to boost support among suburban women, and demands for an immigration amnesty to boost support among Latinos and Asians.

But the budget plan could allow Obama to mash several other emotional buttons all the way to election day in November 2014.

The budget is expected to portray the president as a budget-balancing moderate by offering minor budget-related concessions to the GOP, and by promising to trim the 10-year deficit by $600 billion.

Those moderate-sounding steps are important for Obama, because he’s still trying to portray the GOP as a do-nothing, obstructionist and damaging group of “Tea Party Republicans.”

The budget plan “is not my ideal plan to further reduce the deficit,” Obama said in his April 6 weekend address. ”It is a compromise I’m willing to accept in order to move beyond a cycle of short-term, crisis-driven decision-making, and focus on growing our economy and our middle class for the long run,” he claimed.

To the public, $600 billion over 10 years can be portrayed as substantial savings. But it could be only about 10 percent of the extra debt federal spending is expected to create over the next 10 years.

Currently, the government’s debt is nearly $17 trillion, $6 trillion more than was owed when Obama was inaugurated in January 2009.

The budget is expected to include tax increases worth $600 billion over a decade. Those increases — which include a cap on tax-free retirement savings — have already prompted protest and pushback by the GOP, whose supporters are strongly anti-tax and against Obama’s big government policies.

“So where are the net spending cuts? I guess they don’t exist,” said an April 5 email from Brendan Buck, press secretary for House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio. “The president’s budget will – at best – be flat on spending — or potentially even be a net spending increase [and] any deficit reduction will come exclusively from tax hikes.”

Congressional Democrats lining up to face voters in 2014 could potentially use complaints like Boehner’s to portray the GOP as the party of the uncaring rich.

Obama has also offered to accept the so-called “Chained Consumer Price Index” rule change sought by the GOP.

This accounting change would trim planned Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid spending by $280 billion over the next 10 years. That’s roughly 1/64th of the roughly $18 trillion scheduled to be spent by those programs.

But Obama’s CPI offer is being spun by his aides as a good-government concession to the obstructionist GOP, even though it also raises $100 billion in extra taxes over the next decade by nudging more people into higher tax-brackets.

Happily for the White House, Obama’s support for the chained CPI rule has also prompted angry complaints from various progressive groups. The more those groups protest, the more they bolster Obama’s posture as a moderate and his claims that the Republicans are heartless penny-pinchers eager to divert retirees’ funds in fat-cats’ pockets.

But the left is pleased by other elements in the budget package.

The budget plan is expected to mollify left-wing groups by rejecting the 10-year, $1.2 trillion “sequester” trim to federal spending rates. By disavowing the sequester — even though it was his proposal, and even though he recently signed a short-term budget deal that incorporates the sequester — Obama hopes to blame the country’s economic woes on the GOP.

White House spokesman Jay Carney reiterated this claim April 5, as he tried to blame the GOP for the very poor March jobs report.

“There’s no question that anticipation of sequester as well as the fact of sequester — as outside economists have said — would have a negative impact on job growth and economic growth,” he claimed, amid the news that at least 496,000 people had given up looking for jobs, while only 88,000 new jobs were created, in March.

Obama used similar language in his weekend address, released April 6.

“We need fewer self-inflicted wounds from Washington, like the across-the-board spending cuts that are already hurting many communities – cuts that economists predict will cost our economy hundreds of thousands of jobs this year,” he claimed.

The budget is expected to contain some programs that will likely win support from women. These include a national child-care program that is to be funded by a tax on tobacco.

Obama’s budget plan is also expected to punt on tasks that might prove politically disadvantageous. For example, the budget assumes the remaining 9 years of the sequester will be replaced by some mix of taxes and other cuts. So far officials have not explained what package of cuts and taxes the president prefers. And the White House plan may simply ignore the periodic fight over the so-called “Doc fix.”

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