Imagine three children being asked what they want for Christmas.

One child compiles a list of purely practical items that he knows his parents can afford: socks, books, snacks and the like. The second child includes some practical items, but a few that might be a real reach. If he’s lucky, if his parents have the means to spring for a big gift this year, he might get one of those. 

The third child doesn’t even bother to come up with a list. He just starts screaming ‘Pony!’ at the top of his lungs until he blacks out from lack of oxygen. President Joe Biden, in presenting his federal budget proposal, is the third child. Actually, he’s more like the kid yelling “Pony!” to a family that can barely afford to get him a few pairs of socks or a couple of books, and that doesn’t really like him all that much, anyway. 

The budget that Biden proposed not only has zero chance of passing a Congress divided between the two parties, it would probably face a difficult road even if Democrats had maintained control of the House.

For one, the budget contains $5 trillion – yes, that’s trillion with a T – in tax increases. There’s zero chance that any Republican in the House will support one of those tax increases, let alone all of them. Were Democrats in the majority, they’d be a tough sell as well.

We all just saw how much money Republicans spent attacking Rep. Jared Golden over the increase in funding for the Internal Revenue Service that was included in the so-called Inflation Reduction Act. That was just $80 billion dollars; imagine if he’d voted for more than 60 times that in actual tax increases. Golden would have lost in a landslide, as would any number of other moderate Democrats who barely hung on last November; it would result in a real “Republican wave” election. It’s not just the House, either. The Democrats face a tough road in the Senate in 2024, and vulnerable Senate Democrats are hardly going to be eager to embrace trillions in new taxes. 


Moreover, these new taxes aren’t just to pay for existing spending; Biden proposed a whole raft of new domestic spending.

So Biden’s budget doesn’t just maintain current spending, it grows government and raises taxes in order to pay for it. The entire proposal is basically completely antithetical to the Republican philosophy, which exposes it as a mere political tool.

Indeed, that’s part of the problem with federal budget proposals in recent years. They aren’t used as serious governing documents, rather as a opportunities to float a political message. They’re purely political documents, which is why they are rightly routinely ignored by members of Congress. While they generate a lot of media attention and pithy talking points from both parties, they don’t reflect a real attempt at governing. This shows us that the federal budget process is completely broken, which is why the federal government goes years without even passing a real budget, instead just hobbling along on a series of continuing resolutions until the next election. 

This stands in stark contrast to the Maine budgetary process, where governors tend to propose realistic documents that they at least think their party would largely support. Take, for instance, Janet Mills’ latest budget proposal. While it’s not going to be immediately passed with sweeping bipartisan support, it’s at least realistic. For one, unlike Biden, Mills isn’t proposing a sweeping set of tax increases. Her proposal could be largely embraced by her own party, despite some grumbling along the way and a little tweaking around the edges. 

Biden didn’t have to disguise a campaign prop as a budget proposal. He could have instead proposed a more practical budget that at least had a chance of passing. For instance, he could have tossed all of the new domestic spending and tax increases, starting off with a much more reasonable baseline. That might have disappointed his base, but it would have been a better starting point for negotiations. 

It’s long past time for presidents from both parties to stop using their budget proposals as political tools and float reasonable proposals. Biden could have done that this year, and really been the uniting leader that he campaigned as, but instead he chose to appeal to his base, embracing divisiveness. Hopefully this country can soon get a president who’s more interested in governing than winning re-election.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:
Twitter: @jimfossel

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