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Obama budget hit from left and right alike

WASHINGTON -- Even before it is unveiled, President Barack Obama's new budget is opening to poor reviews from liberal allies entrenched in their opposition to shaving benefit programs and from GOP opponents equally opposed to new tax increases.

The double-edged criticism comes even though the plan reprises a framework that once held the promise of a long-sought "grand bargain" for reducing government deficits.

Obama's budget, two months overdue but to be released today, mixes almost $600 billion in new taxes over the coming decade with modest curbs on spending, including lower-than-scheduled benefit increases for people receiving Social Security. The wealthy would lose the full benefit of some tax breaks while the poor and middle class would gradually slip into higher tax brackets.

Presidential budgets are often declared "dead on arrival" and this one may be just the latest to get that label. But it differs from the 2012 campaign-year missive by proposing a new, governmentwide inflation adjustment -- affecting Social Security, veterans' pensions and the indexing of tax brackets -- that has long been offered to Republicans in hope of winning concessions on new tax revenue.

Democrats seeking to make the wealthy pay even more taxes have comfortably staked out turf as defenders of "entitlement" programs like Social Security and Medicare despite Obama's willingness to tame their growth. Top Republicans, meanwhile, aren't in a compromising mood on taxes after yielding in January to $600 billion in higher taxes on top-bracket earners for a decade.

"Mr. President, if you are ready to embrace bold reform -- to take the steps that are needed to make our entitlement programs permanently solvent and grow the economy -- then Republicans are ready to work with you," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said yesterday.

The White House has revealed broad outlines of the plan, which incorporates a budget offer Obama made to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in December. Boehner, rejecting it, quit the talks.

"The president's been clear that it's going to take broad and shared sacrifice," Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said on National Public Radio.

The White House says the Obama plan would cut deficits by $1.8 trillion over a decade, reducing annual red ink to the $500 billion range by 2016 and down to 1.7 percent of the size of the economy within 10 years. Obama presided over $1 trillion-plus deficits in his first four years. But he also would do away with the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts that were triggered last month, producing a net deficit reduction of just $600 billion.

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