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May 27th, 2011 11:21 am
5 Budget Questions for Barack Obama

Yesterday, Ezra Klein of the Washington Post listed five hardball questions he’d like to hear answered by President Barack Obama:

1. You have repeatedly lauded the economy of the Clinton years, yet in a time of high and mounting deficits, you want to make most of the Bush tax cuts permanent. Economically speaking, what makes you believe the Clinton-era tax rates are too high?

2. During the 2008 campaign, you pledged never to raise taxes on any families making less than $250,000 a year. The excise tax on high-value health insurance plans, which you supported as part of health-care reform, did raise taxes on families making less than $250,000 a year. If you’re going to raise almost a trillion dollars by cutting and capping expenditures, as your budget proposes, that will also affect families making less than $250,000. When will you admit that fiscal responsibility requires tax increases on families who aren’t rich?

3. Your budget empowers the Independent Payment Advisory Board to push Medicare toward value-based purchasing designs. But it doesn’t empower the board to experiment with benefit design more broadly, or any form of cost sharing. The committee’s powers remain mostly restricted to payment reforms. Why?

4. The main differences between your budget and the Simpson-Bowles report is that your budget raises less in taxes and cuts less in defense spending. Why were those decisions made?

5. You’ve talked frequently about the need to “win the future” through new investments and initiatives. But unlike the budgets proposed by the House Progressives or Andy Stern or EPI, Demos and the Century Foundation, there’s nothing in your budget that specifically commits to any such investments, nor any particular funding source dedicated to them. If these investments are so important, why not build them into your budget? Why accept the framework that this discussion should be entirely about cuts?

The day before, Klein listed eight thoughtful questions to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan about the latter’s health care reform.

Responses to each set of queries would be greatly beneficial to Americans trying to sort out whether each man’s plan passes the logic and laugh tests.  After hosting several town hall meetings about his budget reforms, Ryan seems eager to go point-by-point.  The president and his entourage; not so much.

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