Obama and the Budget: Change We Can’t Believe In

Why the New Budget Proposal Should Have Students Questioning Their Choices in the Upcoming Election


Published: March 2, 2011

On Monday, Feb. 14, President Obama released his proposal for the federal budget. His cuts zeroed in on domestic programs that help the poor, like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, for which he proposed half as much money as it was given in 2009. And if you were planning on going to graduate school after Fordham, think again: Obama has proposed that interest on federal loans should accumulate while grad students are still in school, as if we didn’t already have enough undergraduate debt to deal with. This education cut would save the federal government a measly $2 billion next year.

Obama’s recent budget proposal goes against his campaign slogan. (Photo: Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT Graphic: Obamicon.me)

Republicans aren’t happy with the president’s proposal either, even though he didn’t touch their precious defense budget. They want to cut even further into “non-security” domestic spending (aka anything that is not defense), trimming away baby fat while ignoring the over $700 billion gut that is our defense budget. This all comes less than two months after another $858 billion were tacked on to the deficit with Obama’s renewal of Bush’s tax cuts for the rich, the benefits of which I’m sure will “trickle down” any day now.

I don’t want to criticize Obama too much; it would take a pretty radical president to effect actual change in the way the U.S. government does things. President Obama is not that guy, I’m sorry to say. He’s not the socialist the far left was looking forward to and the far right feared. He’s a centrist. He’s not all that different from Bush. If I remember correctly, three years ago everyone was outraged that we were stuck in a seemingly never-ending war that we were paying for, while the rich got tax breaks on their disproportionate incomes. What has changed, exactly?

When discussing his budget proposal, the president attempted to put it in terms that we could understand by comparing the federal budget to a household budget: families tightening their belts need to cut back on things they can do without, while still investing in things that are important for the future. Well, Obama has certainly put all his cards on the table, hasn’t he? “Non-security” domestic programs that help the poor heat their homes and help students like us continue our education are expendable, but our future lies in war and nation-building.

It’s been two years, and now seems to be a good time to start examining President Obama, especially since the 2012 elections are closer than we think. Like I said, I don’t want to criticize Obama too much, because I didn’t expect all that much from him. What I do want to do, however, is dispel the notion that Obama, or the next “Obama,” will ever bring real change, because I know a whole lot of you understandably hoped he would. After eight years of war and economic injustice at the hands of a Republican, you rightly demanded change. You demanded peace and justice, and since it seemed to present itself in the form of a Democrat, you welcomed it.

What none of us realized was that the Democrats and the Republicans aren’t so different. Honestly, real change in this country would require a third party president and a complete overhaul of our Congress, and even I know that’s not going to happen anytime soon. But what we can do, for the time being, is wise up to the game.

Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are going to stop appeasing Wall Street, and neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are going to suggest that we change our interventionist foreign policy, because to do either of those things would be to abdicate our country’s place on top of the world. So what they’ll do instead is keep inserting peripheral issues into the political climate so that all of us are too busy fighting with each other to realize that neither side is on our side. Once we realize that they aren’t really representing us, we can move forward. Once we realize that we are all on one another’s side, we can demand real change. It’s time to wake up. Maybe this budget will be the incentive to finally do that.