The main reason is because it’s unlikely to be enacted. One of the most popular refrains from a politician is that they “fought” for some or another program marked for elimination in the budget. It’s completely parochial and it leads to blocking all kinds of program cuts. Here’s Richard Shelby talking about the importance of NASA, which shockingly has a hub in his home state of Alabama:

“The president’s proposed NASA budget begins the death march for the future of U.S. human space flight,” Shelby said in a statement.

Shelby vowed that Congress would beat back Obama’s proposed cuts and keep the program alive.

“Congress cannot and will not sit back and watch the reckless abandonment of sound principles, a proven track record, a steady path to success, and the destruction of our human space flight program,” he said.

So Shelby protects NASA funding, and some Congressman whose district has the contract to build a new engine for the Joint Strike Fighter protects that funding, and every oil-state politician tries to block the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies, and so on and so on. Obama was moderately successful in getting his cuts through Congress last year, but even still, half of them didn’t get enacted.

(Here’s a list of those proposed budget trims.)

More to the point, the reason why the budget is a bit overblown is because Democrats understand that their political survival is tied to improving the employment situation, and that means additional spending.

The U.S. government must spend its way out of the recession, the Democrats’ third-ranking House leader stressed Monday.

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the House majority whip, said that trying to find greater savings in the budget, which was released by President Barack Obama this morning, wouldn’t help alleviate the recession.

“We’ve got to make some decisions here as to what’s in the best interests of our country going forward,” Clyburn said during an appearance on Fox News. “And I think the best interest is to invest in education, control these deficits, while at the same time trying to get people back to work.”

“We’re not going to save our way out of this recession,” the majority whip added. “We’ve got to spend our way out of this recession, and I think most economists know that.”

The employment figures that the Obama economic team is using as a baseline are really, really terrible, with the jobless rate still hovering around 8% in 2012. The recession was a disaster and this is a reflection of that, but those numbers will wipe out the Democratic majority on all fronts. Whether Obama can be persuaded on that reality, and the need for additional spending, remains to be seen.

David Dayen

David Dayen

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