In defense of President Obama’s budget

President Obama speaking about his proposed 2014 budget alongside acting budget director Jeff Zients in the Rose Garden at the White House on April 10, 2013.
President Obama speaking about his proposed 2014 budget alongside acting budget director Jeff Zients in the Rose Garden at the White House on April 10, 2013.
Charles Dharapak/AP

The president accomplished something incredible yesterday. He managed to unite right and left around his newly proposed budget. Both sides hated it.

The criticism from the right was predictable. After all, this budget does have the president’s name next to it.

And the criticism from the left was also predictable. Leave Social Security alone. That’s a sentiment I agree with and my colleague Ari did an excellent job yesterday getting into the ugly weeds of chained CPI. Breaking down exactly why benefit cuts to social security are the wrong direction and how our whole notion of social security going bankrupt is flawed.

By getting caught up in chained CPI mania though, I think we progressives are missing the forest for the trees. Actually, we’re not even looking at all the trees, just one. Now, it’s a very large and important tree mind you, but it’s still just one part of a bigger picture.

So what are some of the other trees in our budget forest? Well, what are you into?

Concerned about climate change? There’s incentives for smart grid investment. Extra money for the Department of the Interior to prepare for the impact of climate change. Even changes to the way we address worldwide famine relief so that our response is more effective and doesn’t hurt developing world farmers.

Looking for action on gun violence?  There’s more money for the ATF to do its job, funding for gun safety programs and improvements to the background check system.

Hoping we can spark growth for now and the future? This budget invests money in fixing our aging infrastructure, bumps up spending on research and seeks to establish manufacturing innovation institutes nationwide.

Passionate about the plight of the poor? Tax credits that benefit the working poor are made permanent.  $2.4 billion is put towards combating homelessness.

For me personally, there is nothing we could do that’s more important than addressing our broken education system. It’s a moral imperative. And it’s an economic imperative. We will decline and falter as a nation if we do not do a better job of educating our kids, ALL our kids. Not just white kids in the suburbs. The steps taken in this budget to make pre-K universal are thrilling, critical and worthy of enthusiastic support.

When I look at the whole picture, this budget looks actually quite progressive.

And what about chained CPI? No. I don’t like it. Yes I think we should address social security by raising the cap so that wealthy Americans pay more into the program.

But life is about tradeoffs. Government is certainly about tradeoffs. And let’s be real, the odds of the republicans accepting the balanced approach contained in this budget and therefore, forcing us to swallow the bitter pill of chained cpi are about the same as well, them accepting anything with the President’s name on it.

But the point is this, we can’t afford to become a party of inflexible ideologues enforcing purity tests with a suicidal zeal. America’s already got one of those.

In defense of President Obama's budget