Biden’s Pretend Budget a Political Document With an Eye on 2024

News & Politics

Joe Biden unveiled his FY 2024 budget on Thursday, and it’s about what you’d expect coming from a president who can pretend that the U.S. isn’t $31 trillion in debt and running a federal deficit that clocks in at $1.7 trillion.

Indeed, it’s a budget that proves denial ain’t just a river in Egypt. The surreal nature of the assumptions Biden is using to project revenue and spending targets is fully political in nature and bears no relationship with reality.

He can get away with these “fun with numbers” games because the Republicans are paralyzed by their own ludicrous rhetoric. GOP House members have yet to offer their own budget for examination largely because they’ve been trapped by their own contradictory ideas not to cut Social Security and Medicare while, at the same time, balancing the budget in 10 years.

Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), the top Democrat on the Budget Committee, said Republicans’ “biggest opponent … is not any Democrat. The biggest opponent they have is math.”

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Republicans are going to have their own “fun with numbers” games to play when they release their budget. But both sides in the budget battle will not — cannot — address the reality of the dire situation the nation’s finances find themselves in. Since 2008, Congress and the White House have added more than $21 trillion to the national debt — most of it in the last eight years.


Selling his policy ideas as a way to drive massive deficit reduction, Biden aims to shave off $3 trillion from the federal budget gap, proposing a new 25 percent tax on billionaires, an increase in the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent and a quadrupling of the 1 percent tax on stock buybacks that took effect earlier this year.

Democratic leaders also lauded Biden’s proposed restoration of the expanded Child Tax Credit ushered in by the $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package that Congress passed during his first year in office. That popular credit expired at the end of 2021, amid resistance from Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

Biden’s fiscal 2024 proposal would also fund a federal-state partnership aimed at expanding free preschool, provide national paid leave and invest $500 million in a new grant program aimed at providing free community college.

Biden is asking $842 billion for the Pentagon’s current and future wars and $121 billion for the Veterans Affairs Administration. Republicans won’t quibble much with those numbers. But the president is proposing a 1% decrease in Homeland Security funding. At a time when threats to the homeland are proliferating, is this really the time to cut DHS funding?

The most controversial item in the budget is Biden’s plan to “save” Medicare by — you guessed it — raising taxes.

As Republicans wrestle over how to approach entitlements, Biden’s proposed budget aims to extend Medicare’s life by at least 25 years by upping the tax rate on the program for Americans making more than $400,000. It also would close a loophole that has shielded some wealthy business owners and high earners from paying that tax.

The budget would also allow Medicare to negotiate the cost of more prescription drugs, funneling about $200 billion in savings into the program.

What about Social Security? Here, the president is most polite, telling the GOP, “You first, guys.”

Biden’s plan doesn’t offer a similar fix for Social Security, noting that the administration “looks forward to working with the Congress” to ensure “that high-income individuals pay their fair share,” ostensibly by expanding payroll taxes on the wealthy, although Biden hasn’t officially embraced that idea. The budget would provide a $1.4 billion boost, or 10 percent increase, for the Social Security Administration.

As a blueprint for government spending, it’s a joke. But as a political document looking at the political battles that will define the 2024 presidential race, it’s a stroke of genius. No matter who does it, spending cuts are going to be wildly unpopular. By forcing Republicans to be the responsible party and get Biden’s massive spending under control without raising taxes, Biden has rolled out the welcome mat offering to make Republicans take the role of the bad guy.

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