Question: What's blue and white, comes as a set of four and is worth $3.8 trillion?
Answer: President Obama's spending plan for budget year 2013.
In a city where political gridlock rules, especially in an election year, consider the President's budget more of a rough sketch. It's high on money for schools and infrastructure. It tries to cut the deficit by $4 trillion over ten years. It also favors higher taxes on corporations and the wealthiest of Americans, including a version of billionaire Warren Buffett's proposal to make millionaires and above pay tax of at least 30 percent. The so-called Buffett Rule would replace one of the most annoying, if not hated, pieces of the tax code: The Alternative Minimum Tax that annihilates the deductions many middle-income Americans think they have coming each year.
Karen Shaw Petrou of Federal Financial Analytics in Washington wishes the budget wasn't so easy for congress to dismiss as election year pandering. "It should be taken seriously," says Petrou, "but it won't be, because congress not only no longer even wastes its sweet time with budget resolutions and provisions the law requires, but, in fact, doesn’t even do a budget at all." According to Petrou, middle-of-the-night continuing resolutions that currently govern the country's spending are not enough.
Petrou advises that, while the overall budget number will just become more fodder for the election year political machine, it's worth spending time reading the fine print. At that level, she says, you can see where the current administration is heading in areas they do control, such as what's next for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which she estimates will cost the U.S. taxpayer $28 billion by 2022.
Still, that's a decade away. In the meantime, the President and his budget will face voters in November.