On Monday President Obama released his budget proposal for the 2013 fiscal year, which the White House is calling "a blueprint for how we can rebuild [the] economy." Much like his 2012 budget request, it has little chance of actually getting passed by Congress. But as a symbolic statement on his economic vision, it continues the president's confrontational messaging as of late, highlighting the struggling middle class while bemoaning tax breaks for millionaires.
"The budget that we're releasing today is a reflection of shared responsibility," Obama said to a crowd of students and faculty at Northern Virginia Community College, explaining that his budget proposals to invest in education, technology and infrastructure mean making tough cuts in other areas and raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. The $3.8 trillion budget plan includes the following:
$1 trillion in discretionary spending cuts, a reduction measure agreed to in the debt-ceiling deal passed last August. Among the broad range of slashed items are $8.9 billion from the Justice Department, $6.6 billion from Health and Human Services and $2.9 billion from Housing and Urban Development.
$1.5 trillion in revenue through tax reform, including the expiration of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent, the elimination of tax breaks for millionaires and the adoption of the "Buffett rule," requiring that households making more than $1 million a year pay at least 30 percent in their income taxes.
$350 billion in short-term job-creation initiatives, including the extension of the payroll-tax cut and unemployment insurance benefits for the rest of 2012; $50 billion for rebuilding roads, railways and airport runways; and $60 billion for modernizing schools and helping states hire and retain teachers and first responders.
$141 billion for research and development, and tax credits for manufacturers that hire in communities with high unemployment.
$8 billion for a new community college job-training fund, which would connect community colleges and businesses to train 2 million workers in high-growth industries.
While the president dedicated a significant portion of his speech on the issue of wealth inequality and his call for the richest Americans to pay more in taxes, characterizing the current tax code as unfair, he also acknowledged budgetary hits to the nation's poor. "I'm proposing some difficult cuts that, frankly, I wouldn't normally make if they weren't absolutely necessary. But they are," he said. "And the truth is we're going to have to make some tough choices in order to put this country back on a more sustainable fiscal path."
As the Washington Post's Brad Plumer reports, some of those specific cuts include housing programs for people with disabilities, a decrease in the rental-assistance benefit and a 50 percent cut in the Community Services Block Grant poverty-reduction program in order to, according to a White House official, "target funding for the highest performers with demonstrable impacts."
The president predicts that his budget would shrink the deficit by $4 trillion over the next 10 years. Unfortunately, most of these ideas — reiterations of the same approaches offered in his American Jobs Act, deficit-trimming recommendations for the super committee and State of the Union address — have already been rejected by Republicans in Congress. But rather than try to compromise with them as he has repeatedly attempted in the past, he's putting those ideas out there again — likely with an eye on his re-election campaign.
"We've been through this before, remember?" Obama said of Congress blocking most of his economic proposals. "We've seen this movie. We don't need to see it again. The time for self-inflicted wounds to our economy has to be over. Now is the time for action."
Cynthia Gordy is The Root's Washington reporter.