U.S. President Barack Obama's budget is unpacked by aides of the Senate Buget Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
U.S. President Barack Obama's budget is unpacked by aides of the Senate Buget Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. - 
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Kai Ryssdal: The president's fiscal 2012 budget takes a couple of whacks at the ever-growing federal deficit, as everyone promised it would. The White House claims it'll trim just $1 trillion from the deficit in 10 years. But for the most part, the nearly 2,500 pages that the administration takes to explain how it'll spend $3.7 trillion next fiscal year is kind of a big yawn.

Marketplace's John Dimsdale explains that's entirely the whole point.

John Dimsdale: Yes, the budget freezes domestic spending for five years. It does cut home heating aid for the poor and raises interest rates on student loans. But there's no fix in this budget for the big deficit generators like Medicare, Social Security or tax loopholes. President Obama says he'll only go so far.

Barack Obama: While we are absolutely committed to working with Democrats and Republicans to find further savings and look at the whole range of budget issues, we can't sacrifice our future in the process.

Obama's budget director Jack Lew was asked why the budget doesn't reflect some of the dramatic entitlement and tax reforms recommended by the President's deficit commission last December.

Jack Lew: I would say history is a pretty good guide.

Lew knows from experience that being first with a bold and specific plan only sets up a big target for the political opposition. The road to a grand compromise is for each side to stake out a position, declare an impasse and then meet behind closed doors to come up with something everyone can back.

Stan Collender watches the budget for Qorvis Communications.

Stan Collender: The president probably looked and said, "I'm not going to go first here. I will propose those things that are relatively safe." Although he's taking a lot of heat from both sides for even those things. And then the bigger, more difficult questions, we'll have to do together or it won't get done at all.

But Collender says it may take a government shutdown before leaders see the necessity for really getting down to business.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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