President Barack Obama will present his first budget request to Congress today.
Early leaks indicate that he will propose some tax increases on the wealthiest Americans as well as some spending cuts to help pay for health care reform.
Ezra Klein, an excellent blogger on health care, is excited about what's in the budget regarding health care reform. Although there is no detailed plan, Obama is submitting eight principles that should define health care reform efforts. Klein believes the principle of "universality" is likely to lead Congress to propose an individual mandate to hold health insurance.
I support mandated coverate only if there is a public plan that any American, regardless of age and income, can purchase as an alternative to private health insurance. The public plan would work like Medicare, in that individuals would be able to choose their own providers. Unfortunately, the Massachusetts model of mandatory private insurance without a meaningful public option has left a lot of problems unsolved.
It is not clear how much Obama will do to roll back George W. Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. I am with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others who would prefer to start rolling back tax cuts for the top 1 percent immediately. Last month the president seemed to be leaning toward letting those tax cuts expire over the next two years rather than fighting to repeal them this year.
According to Bloomberg,
President Barack Obama's first budget request would provide as much as $750 billion in new aid to the financial industry [...]
No wonder Obama went out of his way to make the case for helping banks during his address to Congress on Tuesday night. I firmly oppose shelling out another $750 billion toward this end, especially since the bailout money we've already spent hasn't accomplished the stated goals of the program.
According to AFP, today's budget proposal will include a plan
to raise money through a mandatory cap on greenhouse emissions.
Obama's budget director Peter Orszag earlier estimated that a cap-and-trade scheme could generate 112 billion dollars by 2012, and up to 300 billion dollars a year by 2020.
Cap-and-trade may be more politically palatable, but a carbon tax may be a better approach for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.
In cabinet-related news, have calculated that expanding the food-stamp program
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar wasn't the top choice of environmentalists, but I was pleased to read this post:
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar canceled oil shale development leases on Federal lands in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming and announced that the Interior Department would first study the water, power and land-use issues surrounding the development oil shale.
Meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary wants to review US Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids and told Congress that employers should be the focus of raids seeking to enforce immigration laws at workplaces. Obviously, swooping in and arresting a bunch of undocumented workers does nothing to address the root of the problem if employers are not forced to change their hiring practice.
Yesterday Obama named former Washington Governor Gary Locke as his latest choice to run the Commerce Department. Locke seems like a business-friendly Democrat, which is a big improvement over conservative Republican Judd Gregg, who thankfully withdrew his nomination for this post.
Republicans have been freaking out because of alleged plans by the Obama administration to "take control of the census." Of course the GOP wants to continue the practices that have caused millions of white Americans to be double-counted in past censuses while millions more Americans in urban centers (largely non-whites) were not counted at all. Click here for more on the political battle over the census.
This thread is for any thoughts or comments about Obama's cabinet or budget.