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Obama doubles down on economic agenda with long-shot budget plan

President Barack Obama isn't backing away from his new populist economic agenda by proposing a long-shot budget that would reverse sequestration entirely.
President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, Jan. 22, 2015. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)
President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, Jan. 22, 2015.

President Barack Obama doubled down on his State of the Union vision for a new "middle class economics" on Thursday with an op-ed in The Huffington Post vowing to completely reverse government spending cuts made in 2013.

"My Budget will fully reverse the sequestration cuts for domestic priorities in 2016," he writes. "It will match those investments with equal dollar increases for defense funding."

In the post, Obama suggests hiking government spending by 7%, including a significant boost for programs aimed at helping the middle class, which would be funded by hiking taxes on the very wealthy. But with a Republican-controlled legislature, the president's populist agenda is more of a political statement than an attainable set of policies. 

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“Now we have to choose what we want that future to look like," Obama writes, setting out the stakes of the battle. "Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and rising chances for everyone who makes the effort?”

Two years ago, Obama was criticized for presenting a last-and-final offer in that year's budget proposal. Now nearing the end of his tenure, the president appears to once again be proposing a wish list to an already combative Congress. The president's spokesman acknowledged the proposal was "the beginning of a negotiation."

“The Budget I'm sending to Congress is a blueprint for success in the new economy. I know that there are Republicans in Congress who disagree with my approach, and I look forward to hearing their ideas for how we can pay for what the middle class needs to grow,” Obama writes in Thursday's op-ed, part of a larger effort by Democrats to reframe the economic debate around growing income inequality.

Republicans have already protested the budget, which will be officially proposed on Monday.

“Republicans believe there are smarter ways to cut spending than the sequester and have passed legislation to replace it multiple times, only to see the president continue to demand tax hikes," Cory Fritz, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, told reporters. "Until he gets serious about solving our long-term spending problem it’s hard to take him seriously."