President Obama is working from the assumption that the political leader who suggests painful but necessary budget cuts first, loses. He had every opportunity to propose and pass a budget when he had Democratic majorities in Congress. But Democrats feared that showing leadership on the hard budget choices they faced would hurt them in the November election, so they punted.
Even when Obama did produce a budget, it was the closest thing to a non-entity as could be imagined. A budget that doubles government debt over 10 years and raises interest costs (under optimistic assumptions) to a trillion dollars a year would likely be controversial in any year, but is a non-starter given fresh memories of debt crises in Greece, Ireland and a number of other countries.
Of course there is an 800-lb gorilla in the room that no one wants to acknowledge: Three programs — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — grow in the next 10 years under current rules to at least $2.7 trillion dollars a year. Recognize that this figure excludes all the other so-called non-discretionary payments (unemployment, food stamps, etc.) as well as everything else the government does including the military and Obamacare. The 2021 spending on just those three programs is 25% higher than the total revenue of the federal government from all sources in 2011.
Later in the article, I suggest ten principles that should be the foundation of a budget deal.