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President Obama’s budget hits the mark despite the GOP

Earl Ofari Hutchinson | 2/22/2012, 6:15 a.m.

President Obama’s budget hits the mark despite the GOP

The great fear a year ago — when President Obama unveiled his budget for 2012 — was that he caved to the GOP and Tea Party hardliners and meat-axed dozens of vital programs and agencies.

They included community service block grants, which fund an array of community education, health and social service programs in poor, underserved, largely inner-city neighborhoods.

The screams were long and loud from liberal Democrats that the budget slashes would tar Obama as the first Democratic president to do what no Democrat or GOP president had dared do, and that was to slash and restructure Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

The fears have mostly proved groundless, but Obama had to walk a perilous line. He had to downplay the surge in poverty that has dumped nearly 50 million Americans in or near poverty, and who without government subsistence programs most would sink deeply beneath the poverty line.

He was under relentless pressure from the GOP budget hawks and a big chunk of the public to make the cuts in these vital programs or risk sinking the federal government in a deeper pool of debt and deficit spending.

The pressure on him to slash and burn domestic programs is still just as great. But this time, Obama moved away from the danger line with three crucial budget moves.

He slashed the endless runaway military spending on the two wars that he inherited from Bush. The overall projected defense cuts total a half-trillion dollars spread out over a decade.

Though military officials grouse, and GOP presidential aspirants Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum contend that Obama’s cuts will render America military impotent, the cuts are only a small percentage of the over bloated defense budget.

Despite the mostly public relations posturing from some military brass and the GOP, the projected defense budget cuts are cuts that the military can comfortably live with.

Obama moved further from the danger line by stepping up his campaign to make the corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share. This is an easy call. In polls and surveys, a majority of the public — and that includes a significant number of conservatives — say that the wealthy should be taxed more.

Corporate tax rates are obscenely low, and corporate evasions of them are obscenely high. Obama has held firm that the Bush tax cuts that amounted to a budget-killing giveaway to the super-rich must go. The tax hikes on the rich will not eliminate the still high federal deficit, but it will dent it.

This would bring the deficit under $1 trillion, and more importantly, reduce the need for the more draconian cuts in other health, education and infrastructure maintenance programs.

There will be cuts to Medicare and Medicaid but they will be stretched out over a decade, and there will be no major structural reforms in the program. This meets the GOP’s demands and is wildly at odds with the majority of American’s ideals, especially those who are dependent for their health coverage on the programs.