Yesterday, principal deputy White House press secretary Josh Earnest announced President Obama will finally put forth his 2014 fiscal year budget to the American people – a mere two months and a few days past the legal deadline of February 4, 2013.
Earnest said the sequester and other factors played into the tardiness:
The budget, more than two months late after the legal deadline of Feb. 4, was delayed by the year-end debate over taxes and spending, compounded by across-the-board spending cuts that took effect on March 1.
The spending blueprint outlining Obama’s priorities for the year beginning Oct. 1 follows House and Senate adoption of budget resolutions, nonbinding road maps that highlight differences between Democrats and Republicans over taxes, spending and the size of government.
Obama’s budget probably won’t change the political debate. Still, it gives the president a chance to align himself with a vision of modestly reduced U.S. deficits through higher taxes on top earners and ending special tax breaks.
This is a frustrating development, for two reasons. First, the President has broken the law. Not that he’s the first politician or person to do so, but his budget was due a long time ago. Yet he has faced relatively little criticism for this failure to follow the law of the land.
Second, it’s annoying because the President’s “probably won’t change the political debate” understates the case. I doubt it will change the political debate at all, outside of a couple of editorials by The New York Times and a cringeworthy column or two from Paul Krugman praising the budget. Which means those who have focused on this particular violation of the law are somewhat missing the forest for the trees.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what the President’s budget says. The proposal he submitted to Congress got a combined zero votes last year, and is mostly used as a political tool, not a budgetary one. While it is important to mark this against President Obama as yet another way he has flouted the law, it is also critical to put it into context – that even if he had submitted his budget on time, it would still be a breathtakingly irresponsible document designed more for protection of his political party over protection and safekeeping of the nation.