Obama Budget 2014: Something We Can All Agree to Hate (Unless You Want to Lasso Asteroids)
President Obama's budget was proposed on Wednesday but, as details emerged, all sides are shaking their respective heads. The controversy lies not in his goal of debt reduction, but in the measures he uses, including tax hikes and social security cuts. President Obama manages to confuse many with strange new expenditures — including asteroid lassoing.
During the White House press briefing on Friday, Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed the worst fears held by all sides of the political spectrum. Carney explained President Obama’s proposal "represents a middle-of-the-road, common-sense approach" to the budget. However, groans emanating from the left and the right may mean the president’s proposal will decrease his already tenuous popularity.
A White House statement details that the proposal would stop taxpayers from maintaining over $3 million in one retirement account, which would raise $9 billion in revenue over the next decade. The statement went on to say that, currently, wealthy people may "accumulate many millions of dollars in these accounts, substantially more than is needed to fund reasonable levels of retirement saving." In other words, the government will determine what amount of money in a retirement account is fair. Many on both sides are wary of such arbitrary determinants of "fairness." Furthermore, many are left to wonder what the government believes are "reasonable levels of retirement saving," and why ambiguous definitions should rule their finances.
The proposed budget also includes a universal pre-K program, which will be funded by tobacco tax increases. In other words, the proposal will tax "unpopular" and "mean" things (tobacco) to benefit "popular" and "nice" things (children), with no regard for individual liberty. Infringing upon the evil smokers to benefit the children pleases the ear. However, many people who never attended pre-K (myself included) are doing just fine. Before taxing anything legal, we should consider whether it is an effective use of taxpayer funding.
President Obama’s proposal prompted a united moan from the left on Friday. In a statement, Senator Bernie Sanders said, "What the president is proposing is going to hurt a lot of people," referring to Social Security cuts to be included in the president’s budget. He went so far as to call it a "bitter disappointment." Senator Sanders implied the proposal is hypocritical, for "As a candidate for the White House in 2008, Sanders noted, Obama pledged not to cut Social Security COLAs." Sanders, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, was further dismayed that the proposal "would cut benefits for disabled veterans and their survivors."
Far-left groups are writhing over provisions in the proposed budget. CNN reports, "the progressive group MoveOn.org labeled the president's proposed changes to Social Security as 'unconscionable' and Democracy for America called the cuts 'profoundly disturbing.'"
In an email titled "Obama's really bad idea" from the AFL-CIO, the labor union's Policy Director Damon Silvers tears into the proposal. He calls the intended social security cuts "unprecedented for a Democratic president" and says it is "unconscionable" to ask seniors, the disabled, and veterans who are struggling "to be squeezed even tighter at a time when corporations and the wealthiest 2% are not paying their fair share of taxes, despite soaring profits." This is strong language from a representative of an organization that is ordinarily one of President Obama’s biggest advocates.
As a bonus, the president includes something we can all hate (unless you’re a science geek or a 7-year-old who wants to be a cowboy astronaut). The Atlantic Wire details that the budget "gives $100 million to NASA for what SPACE.com describes as: 'An audacious program to drag an asteroid into orbit around the moon for research and exploration purposes.'"
In other words "we're going to lasso an asteroid," and you are going to pay for it. Yee-haw spaceman! This sound more like a Bruce Willis movie (Armageddon) than it does a legitimate government expenditure during a snowballing deficit. Admittedly, this is not as frivolous as the taxpayer-funded "robo-squirrel," but we can all agree we should expect better budgeting from our elected officials.
The president’s budget proposal aims to compromise. However, by putting a thorn in the side of Democrats with social security cuts, annoying Republicans with tax increases, and confusing us all with funding for lassoing asteroids, he may alienate everyone. Perhaps our president needs to come down to Earth — where the money is needed.