The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

March 5, 2014

Analysis: Obama budget tries to have it both ways


By that, he means the growth of benefit programs and federal deficits.

Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said House Republicans will offer an alternative "that balances, promotes opportunity, reforms our tax code, saves our critical safety net programs and places a priority on creating jobs, not more government."

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the chairman of the House Budget Committee, has already let it be known he is looking at changes to the welfare system. Coincidentally or not, that was the area on which congressional Republicans and former President Bill Clinton ultimately reached a major compromise almost two decades ago.

For now, Democrats are no doubt ready to pounce on whatever budget Republicans produce. The theory is that if the GOP indeed comes up with a serious no-tax-increase attack on deficits, the inescapable result must be cuts in social programs.

Cue the campaign ads.

The budget maneuvering is unfolding eight months before the midterm elections, which historically favor the party not in control of the White House, and as the GOP looks confidently to renewing its House majority and hopes to seize control of the Senate, as well.

Members of Obama's party must do something to shake up the trend lines.

Enter the budget — and the contrast Democrats hope to set up with a Republican alternative. That would be far better, in their view, than an election that is a referendum on the slow recovery from the deepest recession in decades, Obama's general stewardship across five years in office, the health care law and whatever else is contributing to the curdled national mood.

The polling is instructive on that point.

The most recent soundings of the public mood include a two-week-old CBS-New York Times poll that reported only 32 percent of those polled believe the country is headed in the right direction, compared with 63 percent who said it is in the wrong track. Those findings were consistent with a 28-63 finding by NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll about a month earlier and a 35-64 result when an AP-GfK survey asked the question in mid-January.

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