Editorials

Obama’s budget will boost the middle class

The naysaying already has started, but President Obama’s budget is a sound, sensible and fair spending and revenue plan that will improve the nation’s ragged infrastructure and offer at least a little relief to a heavily burdened middle class.

Sadly, with Republicans in charge of Congress, the budget as presented will bear little resemblance to whatever final product the GOP produces.

But this is going to be a fight worth having. Middle-class Americans have found their wages stagnant for years, as the gap not just between rich and poor but between the rich and everyone else has grown. The profit-takers from Wall Street, who helped plunge the nation into a near-Depression, are again riding high.

This, despite the fact that many in the middle class, having seen their savings depleted and their security threatened, think the big bankers and gamblers should instead be riding a prison bus to the nearest rock pile.

Time to meet needs

The president recognizes that with the recovery growing stronger (at least for many), there is a chance to get the country going again. Case in point: His budget raises transportation spending by 31 percent, funded in part by $238 billion to be collected through taxes on the profits U.S. companies haven’t been paying on their overseas income.

The money would create tens of thousands of jobs for transit and highway projects, of which the country is sorely in need. And it would bring money back into the country that never should have left.

Yes, Obama wants to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans and corporations while giving tax credits for families and those who are poor but working at a living.

The middle class didn’t drive the country into the Great Recession. That was the handiwork of years of Wall Street recklessness and loose reins on the part of regulators. But it was the middle class that suffered the most from the economic collapse that began in 2008.

And it is the middle class that, for once, deserves a few breaks to allow its members to realize a little of the economic recovery that has already been enjoyed by the financial industry, wealthy investors and corporations.

How Republicans will make the case to leave the wealthy alone and keep the tax burden on the backs of middle-income earners struggling to make their house payments and keep their kids in college remains to be seen. But they’ll find a way.

The president’s budget will raise the defense budget, something that seems odd given the pullback from Iraq and Afghanistan, but it might well make it more difficult for the GOP-led Congress to reject the budget out of hand. He’s going to boost spending on homeland security, starting at the White House, where there have been several security lapses. He would invest more in regulatory agencies, which must be done to maintain oversight of the financial industry.

And, of course, the president has as one of his big goals free community college tuition for students who meet clear requirements. This would give hope to individuals and families that they and their children can get education to prepare them for a changed and now-global work force.

A broader budget

Thanks to the political shenanigans of tea party Republicans, who just about drove the country to the brink with disputes over the nation’s borrowing limits, deals were cut to pull back federal spending through sequestration, which hurt the overall economy. It’s time to reverse course, and the president, re-elected despite all the GOP gamesmanship, has it right when he pushes for more spending. He wants an American economy that offers hope to all, not just more comfort to those on the top tiers in income.

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