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Inside Story Americas

Obama's budget: A deal with the Republicans?

As the president unveils a budget proposing significant cuts to social security, we ask if he has betrayed his base.

Last Modified: 11 Apr 2013 11:52
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In US President Barack Obama's 244-page long budget for the fiscal year 2014, it is one paragraph on page 46 that has earned him praise from the Republicans.

"It almost doesn't matter what President Obama wants because President Obama is going to do what Congress allows him to do and what the people drive him to do. What's actually in Obama's heart, you know he's called himself a moderate Republican ... he seems like he's extremely concerned about the deficit and if you read some of the books that have come out about his early weeks and months, he had to be talked out of doing deficit stuff right away and doing a stimulus as big as he did. He's a deficit hog at heart if I had to guess at what is in that heart of his."

- Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief for The Huffington Post

On first reading, it seems like a simple accounting change. The president plans to switch the way social security benefits are indexed for inflation - from the standard Consumer Price Index to what is called the chained CPI.

But in fact the action has enormous significance, not just to the millions of poor and elderly who may find themselves unable to keep up with the cost of living in the future, but to the whole debate over budgets in Washington.

Finally President Obama has officially accepted a long held goal of the right and made social security just another bargaining chip in negotiations.

In total, the budget proposes cuts of more than $1 trillion from government programmes.

But there was some comfort for the base - the president wants nearly $250m in spending on jobs, public works and an expansion in pre-school education. He has also proposed $800bn in new taxes.

"For years the debate in this town has raged between reducing our deficits at all costs and making the investments necessary to grow our economy. And this budget answers that argument because we can do both," said the president.

"We can grow our economy and shrink our deficits. In fact as we saw in the 1990s nothing shrinks the deficits faster than a growing economy."

Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, discusses with guests: Nancy Altman, co-director of Social Security Works and author of The Battle for Social Security; Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief for The Huffington Post; and Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network.

"I think if there is a big deal done this year ... it's going to look a lot like what the president had put out today and I think the president is clearly trying to do a deal with the Republicans.

"He wants to get a big deal done on deficit reduction and the budget before he leaves office and ... this was a balanced and thoughtful approach that is more focused on the growth than the Republicans [would want] and probably a little bit more focused on deficit reduction than some of the Democrats would want."

Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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