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Six things Obama's budget plan reveals about his priorities

President Obama's $3.78 trillion budget for fiscal 2014 lays out elements of a possible 'grand bargain' with Congress. At the same time, it speaks to his policy priorities.

By Staff writer / April 10, 2013

Copies of President Obama's budget plan for fiscal year 2014 are distributed to Senate staff on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. The president sent Congress a $3.78 trillion spending blueprint that seeks to tame runaway deficits by raising taxes further on the wealthy and trimming popular benefit programs, but it has drawn angry responses from both the right and the left.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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With the arrival of President Obama's budget plan, it’s official: Both political parties have laid out fiscal blueprints that embrace the controversial idea of entitlement reform.

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The catch: Mr. Obama won't seek cost savings within entitlements popular with the middle class unless new tax revenues are part of the package, while the budget House Republicans have put forward envisions no new tax revenue.

Still, the willingness of both sides to confront projected revenue shortfalls for Social Security and Medicare is significant. It’s a sign that leaders in both parties realize that, as politically risky as it may be to tinker with those programs, that’s the only path toward a sustainable fiscal plan for the nation.

Here’s a tour of Obama’s budget blueprint for the next 10 years, as seen through six central priorities:

1. New deficit reduction: $1.8 trillion.

The fulcrum of Obama’s budget is a $1.8 trillion offer for additional deficit reduction over the next 10 years, beyond some $2.5 trillion in steps Obama and Congress have already taken in the past two years to reduce future deficits (adding up to $4.3 trillion total). Obama first made the offer a few months ago in fiscal talks with House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio, and now it’s an official part of his budget – a move intended to lure Republicans to the bargaining table.

"By including this compromise proposal in the Budget, the President is demonstrating his willingness to make tough choices to find common ground to further reduce the deficit,” the Obama administration says in its budget summary, released Wednesday.

The $1.8 trillion in deficit cuts would replace the “sequester,” cancelling those automatic budget cuts that are now affecting agencies ranging from the Defense Department to the Federal Aviation Administration. Instead, the budget savings would come largely from tax hikes and entitlement reforms, and a related easing of interest payments on national debt.

The Obama administration says its plan would bring the federal deficit down to 2.8 percent of gross domestic product in 2016 and 1.7 percent of GDP in 2023.

But overall, the national debt as a share of GDP would be little changed, falling from about 76 percent today to 73 percent in 2023. That contrasts with a House Republican budget that seeks to bring the budget into balance and debt down to 55 percent of GDP by 2023.
 
For all the debate about taxes, the key difference between the two budget visions is on spending. Where Obama would spend $3.78 trillion in 2014 and $46.5 trillion over the next decade, House Republicans would like to see $3.53 trillion and $41.5 trillion, respectively. The two sides are not nearly as far apart on tax revenue, with a gap between their plans of about $1 trillion for the next decade.

2. New taxes: $580 billion.

As with prior Obama tax hikes, the focus here is on raising revenue from upper-income households.

First, the president calls for a “Buffett rule,” to ensure that households with incomes higher than $1 million (business tycoon Warren Buffett is safely ensconced that category) pay at least 30 percent of their income (after charitable giving) in taxes.

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