The budget released today isn't about to become the law. It's a multi-trillion-dollar conversation piece that's designed to get people talking about the president's priorities. So let's talk...
The reason President Obama's 2013 budget matters is not that it's a preview of the year's laws. The vast majority of its provisions are dead-on-arrival. It includes $1.5 trillion in tax hikes that won't happen and $350 billion in immediate stimulus that can't pass.
The White House's budget matters for two other reasons. First, it forces the president to put numbers next to his priorities. Second, it gives everybody in Washington something to look at and talk about. It's an expensive, ornate conversation piece, like a Fabergé egg for policy wonks.
The budget document itself is a 220-page mammoth of political rhetoric, data tables, and policy prescriptions. Some are really good. Some are less good. Read the whole thing if you're a masochist with lots of time on your hands. Or just read this summary of the most important points, ranked roughly in order of their fantastical unfeasibility:
1. Tax reform. The president is calling to raise about $1.5 trillion in revenue from the top 1%-2%, which is in line with past proposals. The budget calls for the expiration of Bush tax cuts for families making more than $250,000 -- a campaign promise dating back to 2007. He would also tax dividend gains as ordinary income for the richest Americans, and eliminate the tax break for "carried interest," which lets private equity managers pay a lower rate. Under the Buffett Rule, which is explicitly designed to replace the Alternative Minimum Tax, no household making more than $1 million would easily pay less than 30 percent of its income in taxes. For the vast majority of Americans, taxes wouldn't change.