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That would be entirely consistent with the way that Chicago politics are used in Illinois to produce budgets in the Windy City and in Springfield. You ask for more than you know you can get in the first round, so that you can appear to compromise when you “back down” to get to the spot you wanted be in the first place. There is a limit to the amount of cuts that the president can make before he further alienates his leftist base. Even this proposal, one that includes that most modest of spending cuts, drew criticism from Democrats on the far left. Criticizing spending cuts that affect the Low Income Heating Assistance Program, Senator Joe Tester (D-MT) complained: “This budget proposal raises a lot of questions about where the priorities of this administration are.” Leftist colleagues like Barbara Boxer (D – CA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CN) were critical as well. As the GOP demands deeper, more meaningful cuts, discontent on the far left wing will inevitably grow.
The president may be playing a dangerous game here. Every time he agrees to make a meaningful cut, his base will likely describe that as him “giving in” to Republican demands. Recall that Obama extending tax cuts to Americans earning more than $250,000 per year sent the Daily Kos crowd into hysterics, with many labeling the president a “closet Republican,” even though the loss of federal revenue resulting from the extension was barely a blip on the radar. The deep cuts necessary to restore the nation’s fiscal health are guaranteed to enrage the far left and they will surely hold “their” president ultimately responsible for whatever government funded goodies are less available. And if the GOP does indeed go after entitlement cuts and the president ultimately agrees to a compromise? Leftist anger in that case will be spectacular to behold.
On the flip side, the millions of Americans deeply concerned over mounting debt and the fiscal health of the nation are not going to be impressed with half measures. A few cuts that turn a $3.73 trillion budget into a $3.5 trillion plan isn’t going to satisfy this group. Thus, by setting himself up to steer a middle course where he ultimately hopes to preserve a good deal of big government spending while giving in here and there, the president may ultimately alienate everyone. How the GOP prepares and markets its counter-proposal will do much to set the stage for the drama to play out over the rest of the year. Except the Republican plan to come out after the Congressional Budget Office scores the president’s proposed budget, most likely sometime in April.
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