Barack Obama unveils election-tinged $4 trillion budget

Barack Obama unveiled the last budget of his presidency Tuesday, a four-trillion-dollar plan that is dead-on-arrival in Congress but could shape the 2016 White House race.

AFP| Last Updated: Feb 09, 2016, 22:25 PM IST
Barack Obama unveils election-tinged $4 trillion budget

Barack Obama unveiled the last budget of his presidency Tuesday, a four-trillion-dollar plan that is dead-on-arrival in Congress but could shape the 2016 White House race.

Legislatively, the future looks bleak for Obama`s 2017 fiscal plan, which covers spending on everything from cybersecurity to the environment.

It includes big-ticket investments in America`s creaking infrastructure -- to the tune of $320 billion over the next decade -- and ramps up research into clean energy technologies and cancer.

But Republicans who control Congress have already vowed to draft their own plan, "rather than spend time on a proposal that," according to House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, "will double down on the same failed policies."

Adding insult to White House injury, spending announcements that would have made waves in the first year of Obama`s administration are likely to quickly dissolve into saturation coverage of the New Hampshire presidential primary, which also takes place Tuesday.

Still, the budget provides Obama with one of his few remaining opportunities to fashion national and Democratic party priorities. 

The White House promised a statement of intent that will be a "coherent, prioritized budget that reflects the need to expand economic opportunity for everybody in the United States," said spokesman Josh Earnest.

The budget is laden with measures designed to wean the United States off fossil fuels, including a $10-a-barrel levy on crude.

A "computer science for all" program would give schools $4 billion to teach a "new basic skill" and help modernize workforce skills.

Looking farther afield, the proposal will include $7.5 billion -- a 50 percent increase from the previous year -- to fund the campaign against the Islamic State group.

That includes $1.8 billion to pay for over 45,000 more GPS-guided smart bombs.

The budget would also invest more than $19 billion on cybersecurity, a 35 percent jump. 

"Cyberthreats are among the most urgent dangers to America`s economic and national security," Obama said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

"The nation`s cyber adversaries getting more sophisticated every day -- developing new botnets, spyware, malware and ransomware -- we have to be even more nimble and resilient, and stay ahead of these threats," Obama said.

Some $4.3 billion would be spent on "countering Russian aggression and support European allies." 

While politics may have doomed this budget, the plan might have its biggest impact on the campaign trail, where Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are fighting a tougher-than-expected battle for the Democratic Party`s presidential nomination.

Sanders` electrifying support in early voting states has exposed a battle for the soul of the party.

The self-styled democratic socialist`s message has eclipsed Clinton`s more moderate and, she claims, realistic message.

The pair virtually tied in Iowa and the last polls showed Sanders leading Clinton in New Hampshire by nearly double digits.

Obama is unlikely to withhold endorsement from either, but they will be cautious about getting on the wrong side of a potent campaigner who remains deeply popular among Democrats.

When Obama earlier this year suggested he could not vote or campaign for anyone who does not support gun control, Sanders was quick to define his record on the issue.

The budget also provides Obama an opportunity to draw sharp contrast with Republicans, as the November general election looms.

"Clearly, Republicans are not interested in hearing about a budget that invests in the future and grows the wages of hard-working Americans," charged House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.