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A day after the Greek government passed austerity measures (a package of pay and pension cuts that saves banks economic pain while punishing average workers), and in which the Greek people took to the streets to violently protest such measures, President Obama’s 2013 budget proposal drew renewed attention to the bitter divide among U.S. Democrats and Republicans.
The president’s proposal is a combination of spending cuts, tax hikes on the wealthiest earners and stimulus measures. “There is pretty broad agreement that the time for austerity is not today,” New White House Budget Director Jack Lew said. “We can’t cut our way into growth,” Obama reiterated yesterday.
The GOP, however, holding firm on its no-tolerance policy toward new taxes (meaning budget revenues must come exclusively from cuts to popular government programs like Social Security and Medicare) must not have gotten the memo. Republican Rep. Paul Ryan said Obama’s plan would result in “America drowning in debt” and “slower economic growth.” House Speaker John Boehner called it “a gloomy reflection of his failed policies of the past, not a bold plan for America’s future.”
Of course, everyone in Washington knows the Obama budget proposal has zero chance of actually getting passed as-is by the Republican-led Legislature. With most GOP politicians tied into the Grover Norquist no-tax pledge, assent on the budget issue would equate to professional suicide.
The Obama proposal can therefore be seen as a political tool, another weapon in the president’s arsenal as he takes his case to the American people for a second term. And the president needs all the arms he can muster: With experts predicting a nasty general election fight in which Wall Street dollars overwhelmingly favor whoever ends up opposing Obama, Big Money is set to play an outsized role in the November elections.
“We can’t have Washington stand in the way of America’s comeback,” Obama said yesterday. Perhaps, it would’ve served the president to also mention the competing visions of Wall Street and Athens.
Follow Brayden Simms on Twitter @metropolitik