Obama's Budget Definitely
Not More of the Same

By
John Demsey. Photo: Getty Images

The massive budget that President Obama outlined yesterday was much more than the first salvo in the new effort for health care reform. Though Congress will certainly change some aspects of Obama's budget as it crafts its own bill, Obama's intends to place much of the burden of funding his policies on the shoulders of America's wealthiest. This represents a dramatic break from the past, one that opinion makers are today beginning to wrap their heads around.

• Robert Reich claims the budget "represents the biggest redistribution of income from the wealthy to the middle class and poor this nation has seen in more than forty years," and "[i]t's about time," too. "The incomes of the top one percent have soared for 30 years while median wages have slowed or declined in real terms." [Tapped/American Prospect]

• Paul Krugman believes that "Obama’s new budget represents a huge break, not just with the policies of the past eight years, but with policy trends over the past 30 years," and would "set America on a fundamentally new course" because of its action on health care, climate change, and the budget deficit. [NYT]

• Janet Hook examines Obama's "determination to break with the conservative principles that have dominated national politics and policymaking since Ronald Reagan's election as president in 1980." Obama asserts that "government can do a better job than private enterprise and do it for less," and "embraces income redistribution of sorts by proposing to pay for his healthcare initiative with increasing taxes on the wealthy." [LAT]

• The New York Post's editorial board says Obama has offered "a $3.6 trillion spendapalooza meant to usher in a new era in the nation's political and economic life." Though voters have expressed a desire for change, "it's hard to believe many folks expected such a massive, fundamental shift in basic US institutions." [NYP]

• Dan Balz writes that Obama's budget "underscores the breadth of his aspiration to reverse three decades of conservative governance and use his presidency to rapidly transform the country." He "not only wants to raise income tax rates for couples earning more than $250,000, but also would reduce the value of their itemized deductions and increase the capital gains tax rate." Without a doubt, "the Reagan paradigm of conservative governance has taken a beating." [WP]

• David Leonhardt calls the budget "a bold, even radical departure from recent history, wrapped in bureaucratic formality and statistical tables" that seeks to "reverse the rapid increase in economic inequality over the last 30 years ... by rewriting the tax code and, over the longer term, by trying to solve some big causes of the middle-class income slowdown, like high medical costs and slowing educational gains." [NYT]

The Wall Street Journal's editorial board contends that Obama is "attempting not merely to expand the role of the federal government but to put it in such a dominant position that its power can never be rolled back." Republicans must "insist on a long and considerable debate on all of this, lest Americans discover in a year or two that they live in a very different country." [WSJ]

• Clive Crook wonders if "higher rates and smaller deductions" is "too harsh" on those earning over $250,000 a year. What about the "successful two-earner professional households, or owners of thriving small businesses, who have just watched their savings destroyed and their housing equity crushed, and who are now promised taxes higher than, not merely equal to, what they were paying before Bush"? It might make for good politics but "until he adjusts the message of this budget, Obama's claim to be centrist and pragmatic looks false." [Atlantic]

• John Aloysius Farrell assures us that "[t]he rich are going to take a hit if this budget is adopted. It won't be as bad as in Roosevelt's time, but this is class warfare for sure." But at least "the tax hikes and lost deductions and repealed tax credits are particularly aimed at the nitwits who got us into the current economic mess." [U.S. News]

• Bruce Bartlett fully expects Republicans to "make extravagant claims about the detrimental economic effect of these higher taxes." Obama's taxes "must be judged on their own merits and in terms of the potential benefits of the programs they would fund," but "when Republicans claim that higher taxes will destroy the economy, they should be reminded that they made the same argument in 1982 and 1993 and that the actual economic results were the opposite of what they predicted." [Forbes]

• Jonah Goldberg isn't opposed to government doing "nice things for deserving people in certain circumstances." But he "think[s] most of Obama's ideas will not work, will be a waste of money and will hurt the economy." And he'll "look for every means within the boundaries of the law to minimize what I pay in taxes and I make no apologies for that whatsoever. [Corner/National Review]

• Joe Klein expects that "you will hear this described as a form of radicalism. It is not. It is liberalism — and more: it is [the] purest bright line available to divide liberals from conservatives in American politics." [Swampland/Time]