Some highlights of President Obama's proposed budget

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The budget President Obama presented to Congress last Thursday, May 8th ended up at a little over $3.4 trillion, after the White House cut $17 billion in planned spending, (less than one percent of the total). Now the budget is in the hands of Congress, which will attempt to make its own cuts and additions. The White House says that the $3.4 trillion budget will reduce this year's anticipated $1.7 trillion deficit to $620 billion by fiscal 2012.

Obama's cuts came mainly from the termination of 121 programs labeled as unnecessary. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the goal is "identifying and ending programs that are unneeded and don't work." Half of the reductions and elimination will be in defense spending, the other half in nondefense spending.

Here are some of the cuts:

  • $400 million by eliminating the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which helps subsidize state and local governments for the cost of jailing illegal immigrants accused of crimes.
  • If the White House has its way, cuts will be made to money spent by the Justice Department for such things as vehicles, bonuses, and consultants, and used instead to protect borders and facilitate the deportation of illegal immigrants. Some Democrats fought President Bush when he tried to make these cuts, claiming that he was leaving state and local law enforcement without the money they needed. So far it looks like those same Democrats will support the cuts under Obama.
  • Abstinence-only sex education – a Bush initiative — is being eliminated, but this does not result in savings. The program, costing $100 million will be replaced by a $110 million program for comprehensive teen pregnancy prevention.
  • Funding for the Even Start program for family literacy will be cut. The Bush Administration targeted this program for elimination, but strong support in the House of Representatives thwarted the effort to cut it. The Obama Administration may face headwinds, but the White House claims they will be successful in cutting the program because "the context has changed."
  • The Resource and Conservation Development Program, which has provided community leadership training since 1962 may end.
  • Education Department's Paris attaché will be eliminated, saving $632,000 per year.
  • $600 million will be cut from the federal terrorism insurance program, which Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters is a "real mistake." Schumer vows to fight the cut, while Obama says the money is an "excessive federal subsidy." Obama added that the terrorist threat would be better mitigated by contractors building safer buildings.
  • New funding for advanced-generation equipment to detect nuclear weapons and radiological materials at U.S. borders and ports around New York City... a move that has New York officials concerned.
  • $35 million for a long-range radio navigation system which apparently has been made obsolete by global positioning satellites will be cut.
  • Production of the F-22 fighter-jet program will end.

...and some of the spending

  • Obama has requested a 10-year, $634 billion reserve fund for health care, with the intention of making medical coverage affordable for all Americans. He calls this a "down payment on health care reform."
  • $18.7 billion will go to NASA, though the plans include retiring of three space shuttles. The President wants NASA to have a more earthward focus, with large increases for funding of aeronautics and earth sciences like climate change.
  • $70 million will be spent to assist ailing 9/11 responders.
  • $27 billion will be added for border and transportation security. This fulfills a promise to the Mexican government to battle the southbound flow of illegal weapons and sets the stage for immigration reform, according to the White House. This represents an eight percent increase. Also there will be more money for screening illegal immigrants in jail.
  • New cash will be added to spur the development of energy efficient buildings and carbon-free wind and solar farms. A goal of Obama's budget is to move the nation toward getting 20 percent of our electric power from wind by 2030.
  • Clean coal research is being funded, but inadequately, ($180 million) according to industry leaders. President Obama has expressed support for clean coal, but coal officials say this is not enough to get the job done. That could mean that clean coal research will eventually be deemed a failure and later stricken from the budget.
  • $17 million for the implementation of an EPA registry for U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
  • For 2009, nuclear power was funded with $177 million, but for 2010, it is scheduled to receive only $20 million, about 1/6 of what is needed.
  • $320 million for solar energy, up from $175 million last year.
  • Wind power will get $75 million, up from $55 million last year.
  • $36.7 billion for foreign aid, an eight percent increase, which stresses the importance of international development, according to White House officials. A White House statement said, "By increasing foreign assistance and expanding diplomatic and development capacity, the United States is renewing its leadership role in the global community."
  • $534 billion for defense. This is a four percent increase over last year. This amount includes $7.88 billion requested for missile defense (13 percent increase). For the first time, more money will be devoted to Afghanistan ($65 billion) than to Iraq ($61 billion). The budget includes funding to deploy 21,000 additional troops. $700 million will be devoted to training and equipment.
  • $53.9 billion for the State Department and international affairs, up from $49.8 billion in 2009. Jacob Lew, the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, told reporters Friday that the budget, if approved, will put the United States on "a path to double foreign assistance" by 2015. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says this is a move towards a greater emphasis on diplomacy and development, whereas, she said, in the early years of the Bush Administration the focus was on military force.

Now it's up to Congress to scour the details of the budget to ensure the plans to spend and to cut are appropriate. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) said the chief criterion for any item in the budget will be "does it affect employment or not?" Congress has targets of its own, including the American Dream Down Payment Initiative, which helps first time homebuyers, and the Community Development Loan Guarantee Program, which some in Congress say doesn't properly encourage large-scale local development. Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Ken Conrad (D-ND) told reporters, "it may make sense to go line by line, but it's a painful and difficult process."

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