For President Obama, this week was all about the budget. He convened a fiscal responsibility summit on Monday, spoke to Congress on Tuesday about his ambitious plans for transforming government while reining in costs, and then on Thursday gave us an overview of his thinking by presenting his budget outline. As if that weren't enough, on Friday he announced his plan for ending the war in Iraq.
To help you keep up with the debates swirling around the Obama presidency, Slate offers this guide to the issues of the week. Here is where the arguments stand on a few key topics.
It's a dishonest slide into socialism: It overstates the economic rebound and relies on gimmicks. The health care proposal alone will cost close to $500 billion more than he says. It includes $1 trillion in tax hikes to redistribute wealth. The president presents himself as being fiscally responsible, but he is preparing to balloon government spending. He says he won't raise taxes on the middle class, but his carbon tax is essentially an increase on taxes on the middle class. His promises to enforce strict budget rules are a joke. Look at what he's letting Congress get away with this week in its spending bill. Even the Senate Democratic budget chairman has concerns about the size of the debt Obama is pilling up.
It's an honest blueprint for change: Obama has expanded the budget timeline to 10 years, which forces Washington to consider the long-term impact of its choices. He doesn't hide annual expenditures like the Iraq war, the Alternative Minimum Tax patch, or disaster funding the way the Bush administration did. His health care plan is essential to economic recovery, because health care costs are booming, which affects the private sector and entitlement growth. His plans for health care and tax cuts are offset with politically brave spending reductions that irritate members of his own party.
It's not fast enough: Obama is breaking his campaign promise to have combat troops out of Iraq in 16 months. After 18 months, there will still be 50,000 troops in the country. You can call them noncombat troops if you like, but they'll still be involved in combat. Obama has also said he will reverse the order if the situation worsens in Iraq.
It's a prudent withdrawal: He promised to leave Iraq in a smarter fashion than the United States got into the war. That's what he's doing: being smart. The situation in Iraq is fragile. He's listening to his advisers who argued that the United States needed a heavy presence through the December elections and that it would take some time to pack up everything and go home.
The surge has succeeded: The troop increase that Barack Obama opposed as a senator, and the strategy behind it, has been a success. Let's hope the two commanders most responsible for the turnaround he opposed will be able to change the pace of withdrawal if necessary.