But spending on entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security take up an ever-increasing share of the federal budget, and “there the instinct has not been to cut spending,” Bixby said.
But Bixby puts Obama on a scale of a 50-50 ratio of cuts to taxes. Obama’s fiscal commission was closer to a 3-to-1 ratio of cuts to taxes; and Republicans want spending cuts, no taxes.
Obama in a radio interview with activist Al Sharpton argued that voters side with him, citing a Pew Research Center/USA Today poll that found 76 percent of respondents in favor of trimming the deficit with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases.
“Unfortunately, I think Republicans right now have been so dug in on this notion of never raising taxes that it becomes difficult for them to see an obvious answer right in front of them,” Obama said.
Obama and House Speaker John Boehner reportedly came close to a deal in 2011 that might have led to serious deficit reduction, with both sides offering concessions. The White House says its offer – including more than $1 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years – is still on the table.
“We were there for a while, he was willing to upset his base, Boehner was as well,” said Joseph J. Minarik, senior vice president and research director at the Committee for Economic Development. “It’s a shame the two have made significant sacrifices and out of that we got nothing.”
Minarik sees Obama’s hesitation in outlining a bottom line on spending cuts as a political necessity.
“You hear people saying, ‘We want him to go first,’” Minarik said. “You look around the corner and they’re all there with paintball guns.”
Obama’s recent budgets have suggested policies “he contends would reduce spending,” said Patrick Louis Knudson, a senior fellow in federal budgetary affairs at the conservative Heritage Foundation and a former House Budget Committee policy director. “But then he turns around and spends a lot of that money and the net spending reduction turns out to be relatively small.”
Republicans during the 2012 campaign accused Obama of cutting Medicare by $716 million. The administration’s plan reduces provider payments and uses the savings to help finance a range of preventative services.
“His is an ideology that favors larger government and buys into the Keynesian theory if the economy is lagging, government needs to do more,” Knudson said. “He talks a different language, he speaks deficit reduction, but his performance is entirely consistent with his politics.”