A Budget With Few Friends

Ezra Klein puts on his "long game" goggles:

Thompson summed the reaction up well: "The same way a spork makes a incomplete fork and an ineffectual spoon, this compromise budget provides for both incomplete investment and ineffectual deficit reduction." And so it has found few friends.

But it's worth remembering that this is the White House's opening bid in a negotiation that's just getting started. They have made a decision -- perhaps savvy, perhaps not -- to leave it to the Republicans to take the first step on entitlements and tax reform.

The Republicans, due to their criticism of this budget, now have to offer something more far-reaching in their proposal. If they come up with a plan people like and some votes for it, the White House can join with them in negotiations and eventually sign onto a grand compromise. This budget will be largely forgotten. If they come up with a plan people hate that clearly can't get the votes, the White House can attempt a replay of the mid-1990s and hammer them with it.

This budget doesn't lead on long-term deficit reduction. But that's not necessarily because the White House is uninterested in that discussion. Note the section laying out the White House's interest and position on Social Security reform. Rather, they're keeping their options open until Congress makes the first move. This is a strategy that frustrates Washington -- think back to the bipartisan criticism of the leeway the administration gave Congress during health-care reform and the stimulus -- but it's tended to be how the White House approaches major reforms.