President Obama said in January that taming the federal budget deficit requires tackling the rising costs of programs like Social Security and Medicare. So why does his 2012 budget proposal, released Feb. 14, ignore reforming them? House Republican leaders labeled Obama's decision a "punt" and said he'd pay a price with voters who identified the budget as a top priority last November.
In reality, Obama had an easy call. Americans agree the deficit is a major problem70% said so in a December Pew survey but few support measures to address it. Most deficit-reduction steps rack up 52%-to-72% disapproval rates. The independent voters Obama needs in 2012 are wary of entitlement cuts, and the Pew poll showed more confidence in Obama's deficit-cutting skills than in those of congressional Republicans. Which explains why Obama is happy to see GOP leaders make the first move with their own deficit-reduction proposals, expected in April. Getting the deficit down is important. But it's hard to see why Obama should spend his political capital leading the charge.