The conventional wisdom that already surrounds President Obama's fiscal 2013 budget is bleak indeed. Dead on arrival. Just another political document. A collection of small-bore ideas.
Harsh, yes. But, if history is any guide, the judgments are more likely than not pretty accurate.
- George W. Bush Social Security was his white whale. But his attempt to overhaul the massive government retirement program in the same year that the nation became mired more deeply in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina wrecked the Gulf Coast never caught on.
- President Clinton The cautious budget that he introduced in 1996 called for level and steady funding—computers for classrooms, a child tax credit—compared with his grander ideas of previous years.
- President Reagan He had more success with his agenda, using his budget and State of the Union address in the 1984 election year to call for reducing federal spending and regulations and for overhauling the tax system. Once reelected, he managed to enact his landmark tax reform in 1986.
Regardless of who sits in the Oval Office, this is an era of austerity and contraction. Given the country’s mounting debt and the political pressure to reduce it, budget wonks assume that a second-term Obama would get nowhere in resolving the nation’s financial predicament.
Video by Theresa Poulson contributed to this article.