Obama's budget falls flat
By Seymour Klierly
With no major self-imposed economic crisis looming, the release of President Barack Obama’s budget request for fiscal year 2015 was met with little fanfare. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell immediately went to the Senate floor to decry the already late document. “The release of a president’s budget is usually a pretty big deal. But President Obama’s latest budget, released just this morning (March 4), well, it hasn’t ginned up very much excitement,” McConnell said. “Folks just aren’t taking it very seriously, because it’s not a very serious document,” he continued.
The Republican’s comments come just one week after Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, announced that the president’s party would not even try and produce a new budget this year. “While this budget year is settled and it wouldn’t be productive to re-litigate it so soon after our two-year deal, I plan to work with my colleagues on the Budget Committee to lay out our long-term vision for creating jobs, boosting the economy, and tackling our deficits fairly and responsibly,” the Senate Banking Committee chair released in a statement.
For agriculture, the president’s budget can be instantly chucked into a waste bin. According to the Department of Agriculture, “At the time of the 2015 budget release, implementation of farm bill programs had just begun and delegation to the agencies of some programs was still in progress.” Essentially the budget does not even attempt to fully reflect the Agricultural Act that was recently signed into law. Furthermore, many of the administration’s previous legislative proposals were recycled this year, even though they were not agreed to by the Congress in the farm bill.
When Obama was in Michigan with Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, he praised the direction of the farm bill. “So that’s why this farm bill includes things like crop insurance, so that when a disaster like the record drought that we’re seeing across much of the West hits our farmers, they don’t lose everything they’ve worked so hard to build,” Obama said. Yet just weeks after signing the bill into law, the president once again proposed cutting crop insurance by over $14 billion to pay for other priorities.
Likewise, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s recent comments at the Commodity Classic contrast with the budget request. At the time, Vilsack commented, “We obviously have fewer people because of constrained budgets but a prioritization that we have done, our teams have really worked hard to work out precisely what needs to be done, how it needs to be done.” However, the fiscal year 2015 budget request asks Congress to OK consolidating and closing 250 Farm Service Agency offices at a time they are working to implement the farm bill.
Delving into the depths of the budget request may appear to be an antiquated and useless exercise; however, it is import to understand the administrations fiscal priorities and agenda. Despite the passage of the farm bill, this administration would hastily cut crop insurance and the FSA if given the chance.
Editor’s note: Seymour Klierly writes Washington Whispers for the Journal from inside the Beltway.