The Politics of Budgeting

Will Golden State voters continue to show the President their love, in the wake of an Obama budget proposal that could hit California hard economically?

President Obama1

In California, where December unemployment registered 11.1 percent--almost three points above the national jobless rate, a majority of Californians (54 percent in a January PPIC survey) has steadfastly approved the President’s job performance.

Will Golden State voters continue to show the President their love, in the wake of an Obama budget proposal that could hit California hard economically?

Preliminary analyses in various media show that, if the proposal is passed—a really BIG “if”--the state could see less money for incarcerating illegal immigrants, addressing environmental concerns, and subsidizing Central Valley farmers.

California’s economy could also take a hit from deep cuts in spending for defense and domestic programs, which could be triggered as a result of last summer’s deficit reduction fracas.

On projects dear to the President’s agenda—such as education and transportation, California fares better. California Community College students would get more funding, through a new “Community College to Career Fund.”

And the Obama budget underscores the Administration’s support for California’s high-speed rail project, despite increasing costs and opposition.

Why the California hits?

It has everything to do with the politics of budgeting —who gets what, when and why. The “budget as election year game plan” is a part of that strategy.

California remains a deep blue state; what Obama needs to do is court voters in swing states.

Republicans charge the President with dodging the “hard choices” this country must face, simply because this is an election year.

Of course he is; that’s been the norm for modern presidents—and Congresses—up for reelection. Obama is taking refuge in choices that are less precarious to his electoral-college arithmetic.

There’s little risk that California will go Republican in November’s election.

But might some soured Obama voters stay home? And might a low Democratic turnout in the Golden State impact results in initiative battles, as well as in several new, more competitive districts?

Speaking at a Hollywood star-studded, high-dollar, private fundraiser, the President seemed to address California’s slights in the federal budget, as he pleaded for campaign support.

It's "not going to be easy, because there are a lot of folks out there who are still hurting," he said.

"And there are a lot of people …who understandably after just slogging for three years and in some cases slogging for a decade or two decades [are] seeing their standard of living deteriorate and their home under water and their family struggling and folks losing jobs.

"It’s understandable that some of them might feel discouraged and say, ‘You know what, nothing changes.’

"But part of our job is to say as tough as it is, as incremental as it sometimes seems, it’s happening.

"And I think the American people, beneath all the hurt and pain and frustration they feel … still want to believe that that change is possible.”

It’s clear that President Obama is banking on California’s Democrats and Independent voters to stick with him—even through tough times and tight budgets.

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