Tri States Public Radio Staff
It's All Politics
Mon February 13, 2012
We Read The 2013 Budget So You Don't Have To
NPR reporters are analyzing the president's 2013 budget proposal. We'll be adding to this post as we get additional budget breakdowns. Check back for updates.
As NPR's Scott Horsley reported Monday morning, President Obama's 2013 budget calls for hundreds of billions of dollars in new federal spending aimed at spurring economic growth. Many of the proposals are recycled from the American Jobs Act that Obama put forward in September. Most of those plans have languished in a divided Congress, and the president's budget is likely to do the same.
NPR's Scott Neuman reports that the spending plan "aims to trim $4 trillion from the deficit over the next decade, while boosting spending to programs to stimulate the still-ailing U.S. economy."
"At a time when our economy is growing and creating jobs at a faster pace, our job is to keep things on track," Obama told an audience at a Northern Virginia community college. "I am proposing some difficult cuts that, frankly, I wouldn't be proposing if I didn't have to."
Horsley notes that the plan calls for $140 billion in research and development spending, including $2.2 billion for advanced manufacturing. Obama also wants to invest $476 billion over six years in transportation infrastructure, financed in part with money that will no longer be needed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The president's budget renews his call for higher taxes on the wealthy, Horsley reports. That includes an end to Bush-era tax cuts for families earning more than $250,000 a year, limited tax deductions for high earners, and the so-called "Buffett Rule," which would ensure that millionaires pay a minimum tax rate of 30 percent.
All told, Horsley says, the budget proposes $1.5 trillion in new tax revenue over the coming decade. That includes a new $61 billion tax on big banks and $41 billion in additional taxes on fossil fuel producers.
The Pentagon is proposing a 6 percent overall spending decrease in its 2013 budget. Those cuts will rely heavily on a big drop in troop strength, according to the proposed budget released by the White House on Monday.
By 2017, the Army will lose 72,000 soldiers, the Marines will lose 20,000, and there will be 6,200 fewer sailors and 4,200 fewer airmen. Plans to hand the biggest reductions to the Army and Marines are in line with the Pentagon's plans to create a more mobile force, with less focus on major conflicts as the two major wars the U.S. has been fighting end. The Army and Marine Corps still will be larger than they were in 2001.
At the same time, the Pentagon is ramping up funding for its newest priorities: becoming more active in the Pacific and the Middle East. To that end, the military will maintain the current bomber fleet, and the carrier fleet of 11 ships. Army and Marine Corps forces in these two regions will also remain strong.
The Pentagon says it will protect funding for upgrades to the Global Positioning System (GPS) and other space-based systems that enhance surveillance and communications. But the military will be phasing out a defense weather satellite system and a successor to the U.S. spy plane known as Global Hawk Block 30, which were deemed too expensive.
The Pentagon was at pains to point out that service members will not take the brunt of these cuts. The budget is only calling for increases in things such as pharmacy copays and health care enrollment fees for some retirees. Though pay raises will slow in the future, the budget for 2013 calls for a 1.4 percent increase. The Pentagon says personnel costs make up one-third of the military budget, but cuts in benefits will only contribute about 10 percent of the savings for 2013.
-- Larry Abramson
Updated at 3:15 p.m.: The Obama administration is proposing $51.6 billion for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. While advocates are pleased to see this commitment to diplomacy and development, they worry about cuts in global health and humanitarian and refugee assistance.
A big part of the budget is for the Overseas Contingency Operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, though the $8.2 billion request is less than last year, and the State Department recently announced that it will be scaling back its huge diplomatic mission in Iraq by cutting costs associated with contractors. In Iraq, the Obama administration is requesting $4.8 billion for next year, which is about 10 percent less than last year.
The administration is requesting another $1.3 billion for Egypt. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says security assistance has been a good investment over the years, though she has been warning that it will be hard to disburse all of this year's aid unless Egypt ends a crackdown on U.S. democracy-promotion groups.
The new budget includes $770 million for a new Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund to support economic reforms in the wake of popular uprisings.
"The Middle East is re-inventing itself before our eyes," says Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides. "The demands on us have never been higher. And you will see all of that in this budget request."
-- Michele Kelemen
President Obama's 2013 education budget totals $69.8 billion in discretionary spending. The bulk of that money is for Pell Grants for needy college students, K-12 school reforms, Title I funding for disadvantaged students, special education and early childhood education.
Two new education initiatives are unprecedented in funding and scope:
The biggest is an $8 billion fund to train 2 million workers in health care, transportation, information technology and advanced manufacturing. In a new partnership with businesses, community colleges will expand career centers, designed to meet employers' needs in high-skilled, high-growth industries. The three-year fund will also support small-business entrepreneurs and paid internships for low-income community college students.
The other new initiative is an $80 million competitive grants program to train 100,000 new teachers. The money would go to four-year colleges to provide innovative teacher training programs in science, technology, engineering and math. These are areas in which the United States faces significant teacher shortages.
Funding for community colleges, teachers and career academies is a one-time, mandatory request.
-- Claudio Sanchez
The president proposes cuts in a few programs for the poor that he has targeted before, arguing that the budget-reduction pain needs to be shared. Among the largest proposed cuts is $452 million in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps low-income families pay their heating bills.
The budget notes that the $3 billion requested for LIHEAP is higher than the amount the president requested last year because of rising energy costs. But the program has bipartisan backing, especially in New England states. And a large group of lawmakers is pushing to get LIHEAP spending back to the level it was a couple of years ago, close to $5 billion.
The president has also called for a $329 million cut in the $1.7 billion Community Services Block Grant program, which helps fund local programs intended to alleviate poverty. These might include things such as job training and tax preparation services. The budget would also make minor trims in Job Corps and in a program to provide affordable housing for low-income individuals with disabilities. The administration argues that some of these trims are part of an effort to make programs more efficient and accountable.
The budget calls for $3 billion in Community Development Block Grants, the same level that Congress enacted this year. However, the program, which helps local governments pay for affordable housing and other development projects, has been cut substantially in recent years. Funding for homeless assistance programs would go up about $300 million under the president's budget.
The budget would provide more than $7 billion in food assistance for low-income women, infants and children, and anticipates spending more than $100 billion next year on other food and nutrition programs, including food stamps — also known as SNAP benefits.
Programs to help low- and moderate-income Americans appear to have escaped serious cuts, in part because they've been cut so much already. There are many on Capitol Hill who think there's still a lot of spending waste — more tightening is likely as lawmakers try to further reduce the size of government. But anti-poverty groups will continue making the argument that now is not the time to weaken safety net programs relied upon by many Americans, and they've had some success in recent budget fights.
-- Pam Fessler
Added at 3:15 p.m.: President Obama's budget would make a small trim in Homeland Security spending. The president proposes $39.5 billion for the agency, a decrease of 0.5 percent or $191 million less than what was enacted last year. Most of the savings come from cuts in administrative costs, including overtime and travel.
The budget would increase spending on border security and cyber security. There's also money for new explosives detection systems at U.S. airports. The Coast Guard would get funds for a new cutter and ice breaker to replace aging vessels "well past their service life."
More than $6 billion would be set aside for FEMA's disaster relief fund, which covers the anticipated costs of natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes. Other FEMA grants would be eliminated. The administration also says it will take measures to speed spending of some $9 billion in FEMA grant money already in the pipeline to "grow the economy now."
The budget also continues current administration policy of focusing immigration enforcement efforts on identifying and removing illegal immigrants who are criminals. For those judged low risk, the administration says it is enhancing the "Alternatives to Detention" program — such as electronic monitoring — which costs significantly less than detention.
-- Brian Naylor
Added at 3:15 p.m.: Scientists who use NASA spacecraft to study Mars were expecting bad news from NASA's 2013 budget, and they got it. With the exception of the Mars Science Laboratory, which is already on its way to Mars, and a mission to sample the Martian atmosphere scheduled for launch next year, NASA is re-evaluating its long-term Mars strategy. In practical terms, that means pulling out of two missions planned in cooperation with the European Space Agency for later this decade.
The news wasn't all bad for space science. NASA's proposed budget for 2013 is $17.7 billion, essentially flat compared with 2012. But that will still allow spending $628 million on the James Webb Space Telescope to keep it on track for launch in 2018. There's also $1.8 billion for research and new spacecraft for studying Earth.
The space agency will continue to send astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station at a cost of $3 billion. The budget proposal also contains $2.9 billion for a new deep-space crew capsule and a heavy lift rocket for future human exploration missions.
-- Joe Palca