Though the president’s budget falls short in several important ways, it demonstrates his willingness to compromise — something most Democratic and Republican legislators have resisted. Now comes the critical stage in any real effort to achieve a “grand bargain,” when the president can show true leadership by bridging the divide between the parties and using the bully pulpit to address the American people in a constructive fashion that can lead to a deal.
The most helpful thing about the Obama budget is that, for the first time, the president has publicly proposed reforms to two key social insurance programs. By adopting a GOP-backed change in the inflation calculator — the so-called chained CPI — the president is accepting adjustments in the cost of living payments for those receiving Social Security.
He is also renewing his verbal offer to Republicans from last December’s negotiations for more than $400 billion in healthcare savings – including roughly $370 billion in Medicare spending over the next 10 years. His budget proposes to expand means testing for Medicare premium subsidies.
These proposals don’t go far enough. But they put social insurance programs on the table for discussion. That is a positive step.