President Barack Obama expressed some shaky math Wednesday in a Rose Garden speech announcing his FY 2014 budget, which is now two months late. His budget replaces the sequestration cuts, but he includes the sequestration cuts in announcing how much his plan would reduce deficits.
"My budget also replaces the foolish across-the-board spending cuts that are already hurting our economy," Obama said.
Not everyone is feeling the impact of the sequester cuts, a set of automatic across-the-board spending cuts that went into effect last month as part of the Budget Control Act, Obama explained, but many families are being hurt by them.
"Some people may not have been impacted, but there are a lot of folks who are being increasingly impacted all across this country. And that's why my budget replaces these cuts with smarter ones, making long-term reforms, eliminating actual waste and programs we don't need anymore," he said.
Obama's budget replaces the sequester cuts with a set of, what he calls, smarter cuts. The budget proposes, for instance, to reduce the growth in Medicare and Social Security by cutting payments to Medicare service providers and changing the way that the cost-of-living is adjusted in Social Security. Together, those reforms would save close to $600 billion over 10 years.
Obama then touts the fact that legislation he has signed already has reduced the growth in federal spending by over $2.5 trillion.
"Over the past two years, I've signed legislation that will reduce our deficits by more than $2.5 trillion – more than two-thirds of it through spending cuts and the rest through asking the wealthiest Americans to begin paying their fair share," he said.
That $2.5 trillion, though, includes the sequester cuts that he had just condemned. A sentence after that is where Obama is misleading in his numbers.
"My budget will reduce our deficits by nearly another $2 trillion, so that all told we will have surpassed the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that independent economists believe we need to stabilize our finances," he said.
The problem here is that his budget does not reduce deficits by "another $2 trillion" because about half of that deficit reduction is to replace the sequester cuts, which is deficit reduction that has already been agreed to. So Obama's $4 trillion deficit reduction figure is counting the sequester cuts, about $1.2 trillion, twice.
Obama's budget proposal also includes higher taxes on the wealthy, more spending for infrastructure and brain research, and a tax on cigarettes to pay for pre-school for low- to middle-income families.
Obama's proposal to reform Social Security has been controversial among liberals while some Republicans have been encouraged by his willingness to engage in entitlement reform. Protesters have been outside the White House condemning the president and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has promised to fight the proposal. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), on the other hand, said Sunday that the proposal was "somewhat encouraging."