Obama's New Budget: An Alternative Strategy
President Obama's budget was met with heavy criticism from both sides of the aisle Monday, but it seemed to serve some purpose: targeting independent voters.
Democrats were outraged that the president was cutting the so-called progressive programs that he worked so hard to push during his 2008 campaign. Meanwhile, Republicans simply thought his cuts weren't enough in any of the right places, preparing future generations for financial failure. But analysts say this budget is an attempt on behalf of the president to show moderates that he's listening to what they have to say.
Paul West of the Los Angeles Times said:
Those in the middle are Obama's main targets: the millions of swing voters who regard themselves as neither Democrat nor Republican and want government put on a diet. In stopping short of deeper cuts, the president is counting on a backlash against some of the more drastic Republican proposals needed to meet austere targets set by conservative "tea party"-inspired lawmakers.
The president's budget calls for cuts in low-income energy assistance, environmental protection, higher education grants and aid to cities and towns, all of which drew criticism from liberals and affected interest groups. But Obama is also seeking new spending for, among other programs, elementary and secondary education and medical research, both broadly popular with the public.
With an increased appeal to the public also comes a perception that Obama is showing that he's willing to work with Republicans when it comes to fiscal matters.
"Obama's budget is more of an opening bid in a tough, rancorous negotiation," The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn wrote Monday. "That means you should evaluate the document as a signal of political strategy, not simply a statement of policy priorities."
Other analysts say that Obama had no choice but to make a political move with this budget, since the Republican-controlled House will be resistant to anything that the President comes up with.
"Obama's preferred approach is about making him appear reasonable against GOP extremism," The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen wrote. "As the fight progresses, the president will tell the public, 'I presented a budget plan with deep cuts, even to programs I care about, which will lower the deficit considerably. Instead of working on a sensible compromise, Republicans are going too far and now want to shut down the government.'"
Many on Capitol Hill have compared Obama's budget strategy to that of former president Bill Clinton's plan of "triangulation" in 1995. Benen also agreed with other analysts that, in the current political climate, playing up both Republican and Democratic aspects of a fiscal agenda could give Obama a leg up in 2012.
"The point is to push the GOP into fighting the White House to do some very unpopular things," he said. "Things the president and his team suspect Republicans will drop when push comes to shove for fear of a public backlash."
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