President Obama, in his FY2014 Budget Request, aims to prime the economy to the benefit of all of us. His budget invests in what is necessary for the nation to have a strong future:
- Repair of long-neglected infrastructure including schools, bridges and roads
- Development of manufacturing innovation institutes
- Increase of nondefense research and development
- Education and job training to prepare people in the above areas, including “Preschool for All”
- Investment in clean energy, creating an Energy Security Trust, encouraging states to cut energy waste, modernizing the energy grid and making permanent the tax credit for renewable energy production
NETWORK supports these elements, and applauds the President for making these improvements while cutting the federal deficit. Many of the proposals demonstrate a concern for the middle class and low-income families, echoing NETWORK’s call for a respect of the dignity of work and workers.
At a time when the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, usually known as food stamps) is challenged by the Farm Bill and in the House budget proposal, NETWORK is extremely supportive of the president’s holding the line on SNAP funding. This is known to be an extremely efficient government program, ensuring adequate nutrition to millions of Americans and providing economic benefit to neighborhoods, as each dollar in SNAP benefits turns over $1.78 in commerce.
However, as with any budget, NETWORK has significant concerns. In an attempt to compromise with House opponents, the president has included use of the “Chained CPI,” a formula that changes the way federal benefits and certain provisions of the tax code are adjusted for inflation. Over time, this would, in effect, reduce benefits to recipients of Social Security and various veterans’ benefits. The longer a person receives benefits, the greater the reduction. The president refers to protections for the most elderly, and for those with the greatest need. Details of this are yet to be seen.
The president also suggests increasing Medicare premiums for the wealthiest in the nation. NETWORK is concerned about the effects means-testing could have on future Medicare support in Congress. NETWORK does, however, laud contracting for better prices on pharmaceuticals for Medicare.
NETWORK also has mixed reaction to the tax proposals in the president’s budget. We are very grateful for the retention of the ARRA improvements to the Child Tax Credit (CTC), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). We support making permanent the American Opportunity Tax Credit, the CTC and EITC.
We laud the president for including the Buffett Rule, requiring households with incomes over $1 million to pay more in taxes, and for closing many loopholes by which those with the greatest wealth are eluding portions of their dues to society.
However, it is unfortunate that savings from this are used to lower corporate tax rates rather than for supporting the many unmet needs of the nation.
Finally, President Obama calls for a raise in the minimum wage to $9/hour – one step closer to achieving a living wage. These changes will make it easier for workers to be rewarded for their effort by having a decent life for themselves and their families. The president’s budget proposal indicates a shift towards greater concern for the middle class and working families.
The changes proposed in President Obama’s FY2014 budget are a step in the right direction for lessening the economic disparity between the wealthy few and average Americans. NETWORK applauds these efforts to promote meaningful work and to ensure that Americans can invest in their families’ futures.
Further reflections about the FY2014 budget will come as implications are recognized.