As I mentioned the other day, too many on the left are setting themselves up to do the same thing with this budget that they did with health care reform - get zeroed in on only one item (in health care reform it was the public option and this time its chained CPI) and not notice anything else.
So what should we be looking for tomorrow?
First of all, on the issue of chained CPI, we need to know the details of how President Obama plans to protect the most vulnerable. I personally don't take issue with those that are saying that using chained CPI isn't a great idea (President Obama agrees). But if we want to stay away from slippery slope arguments about it - we need to know the details of how it will affect people - especially those that are the most vulnerable.
What we know so far is that CBO has estimated that a fully implemented chained CPI would save approximately $220 billion in payments over 10 years and that President Obama's budget will likely come in at somewhere between $100-130 billion. That means that at least $90 billion in potential savings (almost half) will go to protecting the most vulnerable. That seems very significant to me - we'll know the details tomorrow.
What we also know is that the President's budget will contain funding for things like universal pre-K and the brain mapping project the White House talked about last week. This morning, we got another taste of what else might be included in an exclusive report by Sarah Kliff.
President Obama’s budget proposal will include $235 million in funding for new mental health programs, focused initiatives to help schools detect early warning signs and train thousands of new mental health professionals.Pardon me for a moment while I highlight something about that funding that means alot to me because of the kind of work I do.
Another $25 million would be put towards helping schools, where violence is pervasive, to address the trauma experienced by children and test violence prevention strategies.This is the kind of initiative that could begin to address the issues associated with children living in "deep poverty" that I've written about before.
Neuroscientists and developmental psychologists can now explain how early stress and trauma disrupt the healthy growth of the prefrontal cortex; how the absence of strong and supportive relationships with stable adults inhibits a child’s development of a crucial set of cognitive skills called executive functions...When we talk about the failure of our urban schools and the school-to-prison pipeline, these are exactly the kinds of issues we need to address...NOW!
When you cluster lots of children with impulse-control issues together in a single classroom, it becomes harder for teachers to teach and for students to learn. And when these same children reach adolescence...they are more likely to become a danger to themselves, to each other and to their community.
So I'm wondering what more we'll learn when the President's budget is actually released tomorrow. I'll be paying attention to the reporters/commentators who help us fill in the details.
For all those who are consumed with thinking that President Obama is intent on buying into the austerity meme being promoted by the GOP, I'd suggest you couldn't be more wrong. What I'm seeing is a President that wants to have a conversation about our priorities. Michael Tomasky had an interesting thought about that today.
I think that while he [Obama] has reservations about chained CPI, he is willing to trade it for some of the priorities he laid out in his State of the Union address. Universal pre-K, for instance. In policy terms, there exists some inevitable trade-off in whether government will invest in the old or the young, and it wouldn’t shock me to know that on balance, Obama favors the young. That’s a debate liberals need to have and should be able to have without exchanging gunfire.I don't agree with Tomasky that its about President Obama favoring the young. I just think that when we spend $7 on seniors for every $1 we spend on children, it might be time to take a look at that balance. I say that recognizing that the last thing I want to do is engage in gunfire about elderly vs young (after all, I'm a baby-boomer just a few years shy of retirement). Its simply time for us to think seriously about our commitment to children in this country - and how our investments are at odds with our rhetoric about their importance. I think that's a debate we need to have.