Washington – President Barack Obama has proposed a $3.8 trillion budget that aims to slash the deficit by $1.8 trillion over 10 years, raise taxes on the wealthy and trim popular benefit programs including Social Security and Medicare.
The president's proposed spending for the 2014 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, represents a 2.5 percent increase from this year's budget.
The plan projects a deficit for the current year of $973 billion, falling to $744 billion in 2014. Those would be the first deficits below $1 trillion since 2008. Even with the president's deficit reductions, the budget projects the red ink would total $5.3 trillion over the next 10 years.
The administration said its proposals to increase spending would not increase the deficit but rather would be paid for either by increasing taxes or making deeper cuts to other programs.
In the tax area, Obama's budget would also implement the "Buffett Rule" requiring that households with incomes of more than $1 million pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes.
The Obama budget proposes cutting $400 billion from Medicare and other health care programs over a decade. The cuts would come in a variety of ways, including negotiating better prescription drug prices and asking wealthy seniors to pay more.
It would obtain an additional $200 billion in savings by scaling back farm subsidies and trimming federal retiree programs.
The budget would also nearly double the federal tax on cigarettes to $1.95 per pack. That money would fund a new pre-school program for 4-year-olds.
The most sweeping proposal in Obama's budget is a switch in the way the government calculates the annual cost-of-living adjustments for the millions of recipients of Social Security and other benefits. The new method would take into account changes that occur when people substitute goods rising in price with less expensive products. It results in a slightly lower annual reading for inflation.
The switch in the inflation formula would cut spending on government benefit programs by $130 billion over 10 years, although the administration said it planned to protect the most vulnerable, including the very elderly. The change would also raise about $100 billion in higher taxes because the current CPI formula is used to adjust tax brackets each year. A lower inflation measure would mean more money taxed at higher rates.
The plan sent Wednesday to Congress includes a compromise proposal that Obama offered to House Speaker John Boehner during "fiscal cliff" negotiations last December. Boehner walked away from those talks because of his objections to raising taxes on the wealthy.
By including proposals to trim Social Security and Medicare, the government's two biggest benefit programs, Obama is hoping to entice Republicans to consider tax increases.
"I have already met Republicans more than halfway, so in the coming days and weeks I hope that Republicans will come forward and demonstrate that they're really as serious about the deficit and debt as they claim to be," Obama said in the White House Rose Garden.
But instead of moving Congress nearer a grand bargain, Obama's proposals so far have managed to anger both the Republicans, who are upset by higher taxes, and Democrats unhappy about cuts to Social Security benefits.
The White House highlighted $580 billion in tax increases on the rich over 10 years, which would be obtained primarily by limiting deductions the wealthy can take. But the figure climbs closer to $1 trillion after adding in a 94-cents-per-pack increase in taxes on cigarettes, slower inflation adjustments to income tax brackets, elimination of oil and gas production subsidies, an increase in the estate tax and a new "financial crisis responsibility" fee on banks.
Responding to the budget, Boehner said Republicans were unwilling to go beyond the $660 billion in higher taxes approved as part of the "fiscal cliff" deal. "The president got his tax hikes in January. We don't need to be raising taxes on the American people," Boehner said.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Obama's budget "doesn't break new ground. It goes over old ground. It takes more from families to spend more in Washington." Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed Obama's budget as "not a serious plan. For the most part, just another left-wing wish list."
The president's spending and tax plan is two months late. The administration blamed the delay on the lengthy negotiations at the end of December and then fights over the resulting March 1 automatic spending cuts.
The Obama budget proposal will join competing outlines already approved by the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-run Senate.