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Obama’s spending blueprint should trigger public reaction

Published: Sat, March 8, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

It didn’t take long for Republicans in Congress to hold up the “Dead on Arrival” sign as the nation got its first glimpse of President Obama’s 2015 budget.

“It’s a campaign brochure,” quipped Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., chairman of the House Budget Committee. Ryan dismissed the spending plan as not a “serious document.”

Another Republican, Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois, contended that Obama’s proposed budget “ignores reality.”

And Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., blasted the president’s proposal to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, saying, “We should be reforming this flawed approach to helping low-income workers, not expanding it.”

It is noteworthy that the tax-credit provision was adopted when Republican Gerald Ford was president and had the support of the GOP.

But that was then. Today, with Obama struggling to find any backing from Republicans for his major initiatives, the budget in its current form will never see the light of day in the GOP-controlled House. It may receive a better reception in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Indeed, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, a member of the House Budget Committee, was quick to praise the president for delivering a “forward-thinking road map for innovation and economic growth.”

“I applaud the president for building upon the success of Youngstown’s America Makes and including in his budget the creation of 45 manufacturing innovation institutes over the next 10 years,” Ryan said.

The congressman pointed out that the budget prioritizes the rebuilding of the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges.

Therein lies the basis for a national discussion about spending priorities. It’s one thing for members of Congress to look at Obama’s proposals through partisan-colored glasses; it’s another for the American people whose lives are directly affected by federal spending to follow their elected representatives blindly.

Roadways and bridges

Let’s consider the condition of the nation’s roadways and bridges. It was widely reported that a shockingly high number are in deplorable shape — and that was before the long, harsh winter that brought record snowfall and sustained freezing temperatures.

States and local communities that have spent most of their highway and street department budgets on snow removal will be hard-pressed to come up with the money to perform even the most basic of services, such as filling potholes.

In his budget, the president has proposed spending $150 billion on infrastructure improvement projects. Is there any doubt that there are Republican congressional districts in this country that would make a grab for the money if it were available?

And yet, the immediate reaction from the Republicans on Capitol Hill to Obama’s spending blueprint was a thumbs down.

Given that the president also is proposing investments in education, scientific research, American energy, senior services and national security, can Republicans in Congress and around the country not see any benefit in providing the growing elderly population with services?

That’s the debate that must occur across the land.

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