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Published April 04 2012

Forum editorial: President prepared budget, too

In all the hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth over the so-called Ryan budget, the initial fate of the so-called Obama budget has dropped off the radar.

The 2013 budget proposal put forth by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., sailed through the House with solid Republican support and virtually no Democratic support. No surprise in that.

A few days before the vote on the Ryan plan, a budget proposal based on President Barack Obama’s 2013 budget priorities was clobbered by the House in a 0-414 rout. Of course, no Republicans voted “aye.” But not a single House Democrat stood with the president. Not one.

The merits of either proposal aside, the votes on both underscore a few things:

First, both documents are political. That is, their sponsors knew they had no chance of becoming law. The Ryan proposal is dead on arrival in the Democratic Senate, and the Obama proposal couldn’t even muster Democratic votes in the House.

Second, the Ryan budget in particular establishes a marker for Republicans to use as they campaign for the fall election. The likely Republican nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, enthusiastically embraced Ryan’s proposal, while Ryan embraced Romney during the run-up to Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary. Romney won handily.

Meanwhile, the president took to lecterns and airwaves this week to savage the Ryan plan as a recipe for “social Darwinism.” He did not, coincidentally, mention that his budget blueprint did not get a single Democratic vote in the House. But like his opponents, he’s established markers that will be campaign fodder.

So, the tenor of the coming contest between the president and likely nominee Romney is taking shape. It will be about competing visions of government’s role in everything from the economy to social policy. It will be about stark differences in interpretations of the proper relationship between the individual and the federal government. It will be about class (warfare), safety nets and definitions of inalienable rights.

But as the tussle heats up, let’s not forget that the hyperbole about the alleged effects of the Ryan budget has, in large part, deflected attention from the fact that the president’s budget ideas can’t win support from his political allies in Congress. What’s with that?

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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