Senate OK clears way for Obama budget

Late Thursday night, the U.S. Senate approved President Obama's $3.5 trillion fiscal 2010 budget, and in the process gave the new president much of what he wanted in his first budgetary proposal.

The Senate easily approved the measure, 55-43, reported Friday, after turning back a plan by U.S. Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., which sought to cut spending on most federal programs but increase defense spending and veterans' benefits.

Earlier this week, the House approved the Obama administration budget, 233-196. Members from both chambers will meet to reconcile bill differences in a conference committee in three weeks.

Republicans notch key victories

Although the budget lays the ground for President Obama's education, energy, and health care initiatives, Republicans won two victories: the elimination of fast-track status for the climate change-reducing cap-and-trade system legislation, The New York Times reported Friday, and the preservation of full charitable deductions in the tax code. Analysts say the latter measure will make it hard for President Obama to obtain enough funds to pay for the start of the universal health care program.

Also, although the House and Senate budget versions would cut the federal deficit to about $550-600 billion in five years, that does not mean that every American believes it's the correct budget for the times.

Mike Murphy, a retired Larchmont, N.Y., resident is a registered Independent who's not happy with the budget. Murphy said he favors President Obama's efforts to repair the nation's infrastructure, improve education, and preserve and create jobs, but he's concerned about the administration's health care initiative. He says the nation "should consider more private-sector tactics, such as larger tax credits for health care premiums and vouchers" to help lower-income citizens pay for coverage.

"There's a lot of inefficiency and inflation in health care already, and I'm afraid the Obama plan will just add more money into the health care system, driving costs even higher," Murphy said. "We can't just insure everyone. We have to insure everyone and make the health care system more efficient." Murphy added that he just finished paying for a New York City hospitalization bill that include a $2,200-per-day room charge.

Fiscal Policy Analysis: As of now, the budget is slightly light on funding details. For example, barring major health care cost reductions from private health care providers, the $3.55 trillion budget will not likely have enough money to cover the start of President Obama's universal health care system phase-in. That means administration officials or congressional Democrats will need to find additional cuts or raise taxes to fund the program, which is a priority of the Obama administration. (The president is unlikely to postpone the health care initiative.)

Another major victory for high income earners (and for philanthropic organizations) concerns charitable deductions. It's a very popular and bread-and-butter deduction/tax shelter for upper income groups, and its support by Senate Democrats indicates that there are limits as to how much Obama can alter the nation's tax revenue structure.

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