There are three major proposals for a budget before the American people today. One comes from the TEA Party favorite Rand Paul, a plan that slashes $500 billion from the federal budget immediately. Interestingly, Senator Paul is willing to cut spending on national defense and security, aid to Israel and farm subsidies, all three areas where most Republicans have been unwilling to compromise or even offer a plan for cuts. Paul's plan actually offers areas in which Democrats and the White House can negotiate.
The President's budget proposal also calls for deep budget cuts in areas traditionally of importance to Democrats. In fact, the President's plan was received with outcry from both his liberal base and the conservative opposition. The plan also calls for a repeal to tax cuts for the rich, but does not go nearly as far as the Rand Paul plan and also falls short of the spending cuts proposed by the Republican congressional mainstream.
Mainstream Republicans initially called for a measly $35 billion in budget cuts, targeting traditional GOP enemies like infrastructure upgrades, clean energy, the arts and the poor. In recent days the GOP has offered up another round of deeper cuts. Regardless of whether cutting this amount of spending is beneficial or detrimental to the country, it has become clear that the Republican party is now in an excellent position between the moderate White House and the arch-conservative TEA Party.
This position threatens to move the country further to the right as the moderate White House becomes the de-facto liberal position, while the TEA Party become the new conservative right. The conservative Republicans, once the very fringe of the right wing, are now in a place where they can call themselves moderates, whether that is a realistic description or not.
In other words, the coming budget battle threatens to redefine where we as Americans see ourselves politically.
One matter that should be more open to debate is how each of these plans will affect the country's fragile economic recovery.