The $3.7 trillion budget: Is anybody happy?

President Obama's 2012 budget proposal was launched into a barrage of criticism. What emerges will bear little resemblance to the document released on Monday.

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Copies of President Obama's 2012 budget delivered to the Senate Budget Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Drafting a budget and living within it isn't fun – not for families, businesses, or governments. Fun is altogether different from the hard choices about what won't get funded, what will, and where the money will come from.

The Obama administration's proposed $3.7 trillion budget for 2012 was no sooner released than it met staunch opposition. No surprise there. Conservative critics believe it is too free with taxpayers' money. Liberals decry the halving of heating assistance for low-income Americans. Municipalities won't like the cuts in grants to airports, water-treatment plants, and other infrastructure. Defense advocates will see a proposed $78 billion Pentagon reduction as endangering national security.

The point is that what emerges from the debate that now begins in Congress will scarcely resemble the budget that was released yesterday.

There is a silver lining in all this, but you have to look very closely. The era of extraordinary spending to keep the economy from imploding during the 2007-'09 recession is ending. That doesn't mean the proposed 2012 budget is modest. Far from it. But both parties now want to decrease debt. The argument you'll be hearing in Washington is over whether we are doing that fast enough.

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