Obama budget could be costly to Dems

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Buzz Cut:
• Obama budget could be costly to Dems
• Health law a bust for public sector
• Obama: We’re too sexy for these midterms
• Gore plops into Pennsylvania gov race
• Nobody is rooting harder for USA Hockey than this judge

The White House is teasing the president’s soon-to-be released blueprint for the next federal fiscal year. In a nod to his core liberal supporters, the president has dropped a prior nod to entitlement fixes, so-called “chained CPI,” a change in how to calculate the size of future increases to Social Security and other programs. The president is sucking up to his political base, the members of which consider the current trajectory for future hikes to be sacrosanct. That’s pretty good politics, especially since Obama did not seem particularly enthused about the idea before and that there is zero chance that this budget or any budget will be passed this election year. Republicans may be harrumphing about the president’s “unserious” approach to the debt, but it’s not like they thought otherwise before. Nor will the House GOP budget be anything more than pipe dreams. Poof!

You call that austerity? - Many pixels are being slaughtered to discuss the president’s irrelevant budget. Why? Partly, it’s because reporters salivate over anything that looks exclusive or new in a city where governing goes to die. Here in the great gridlock desert, this stuff may pass for news. But also because liberals are excited to see their champion drop the smokescreen of deficit concern. The prevailing Democratic wisdom is that deficits don’t matter and that Republicans ought to shut up about them. The WaPo enthused: “With the 2015 budget request, Obama will call for an end to the era of austerity that has dogged much of his presidency and to his efforts to find common ground with Republicans.” Austerity? The federal government continues to spend way more than it takes in and outlays in the Obama era have increased. From 2009 through 2012, the administration spent about $3.5 trillion a year. The approximate federal spending for the fiscal year that ended in October was $3.62 trillion. The estimate for the current year: $3.78 trillion. The Greeks would love to get some austerity like that.

Unicorns, rainbows and midterms - The WaPo goes on to say that instead of worrying about deficits, “…the president will focus on pumping new cash into job training, early-childhood education and other programs aimed at bolstering the middle class, providing Democrats with a policy blueprint heading into the midterm elections… The lack of conflict is due in part to the collapse of the deficit as a political issue. While annual budget deficits remain high by historical standards, they have shrunken rapidly over the past few years as the economy recovered and Congress acted to cut spending.” Wait. What? A Fox News Poll at the end of January showed that more voters said the federal deficit and Social Security outranked terrorism, foreign policy, guns and immigration as the most important issues for the government. Only the economy and health care were higher on the list of voter concerns. Nothing come close to those two, but do Democrats really think that they are off the hook for being the party of more borrowing and spending? Just because Republicans scampered away from the last debt limit lift fight doesn’t mean this isn’t potent stuff. If Democrats believe that borrowing more than half-a-trillion dollars can be turned into a political plus, they must be back to smoking Hopium. And remember, we haven’t even heard about all of the new taxes that the president will propose. Democrats are marching forward with the banner of bigger government aloft at precisely the moment Americans are fed up with ObamaCare the last big government initiative the Obama Democrats bequeathed them.

NYT: “Cities, counties, public schools and community colleges around the country have limited or reduced the work hours of part-time employees to avoid having to provide them with health insurance under [ObamaCare]…state and local officials say. The cuts to public sector employment, which has failed to rebound since the recession, could serve as a powerful political weapon for Republican critics of the health care law, who claim that it is creating a drain on the economy… The American Federation of Teachers lists on its website three dozen public colleges and universities in 15 states that it says have restricted the work assignments of adjunct or part-time faculty members to avoid the cost of providing health insurance.”

In real life - Charleston Daily Mail: “CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The Kanawha County School Community Education Program announced Tuesday it will close its three day care centers by March 28, citing an annual deficit of $65,000 as the reason. The closing of West Virginia Public Employees Day Care, Elk Center Day Care and Shawnee Community Day Care Center will affect 40 employees and 120 children under the age of 4… [The executive director] said the $65,000 deficit could be attributed to decreased enrollment, need for several facility repairs and increased costs, partly because of requirements of the Affordable Care Act.”

Washington Examiner: “As one way of financing the $2 trillion cost of expanding insurance coverage, ObamaCare imposes a tax on the health insurance industry, which is assessed to each insurer based on their share of annual premiums collected by the industry. But according to the study by Robert Book of the center-right policy group American Action Forum, ‘insurers will have to pass most of this tax along to policyholders in the form of higher premiums, or possibly higher average out-of-pocket costs or reduced benefits.’ The report estimates that in 2014, individuals with employer sponsored insurance would have to pay $77 extra as a result of the tax and those with family coverage through their employers would have to pay an extra $266. By 2018, that will increase to $139 for individuals and $476 for those with family coverage.”

LAT: “Amid a big marketing push, California’s enrollment website for Obamacare coverage has suffered an unexpected outage due to software glitches. The website problems come at a crucial time as the Covered California exchange tries to persuade more uninsured people to sign up ahead of a March 31 deadline…. Covered California took its enrollment system down for scheduled maintenance and upgrades for 24 hours this past weekend. But problems have persisted and Thursday consumers were greeted by a message saying ‘the enrollment portion of the site is being worked on.’’’

Weekly Standard: “A recently released Department of Agriculture (USDA) report on the ‘Food Assistance Landscape’ for the fiscal year 2013 shows that for the second year in a row, participation in the federal government's SNAP (food stamps) program has increased despite a corresponding drop in the unemployment rate, bucking the historical trend. The unemployment rate fell below 8 percent in 2013. On the other hand, the percentage of the U.S. population on food stamps in 2013 rose to the highest level ever, just over 15 percent at [47.6 million people].”

Host Chris Wallace welcomes Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., to discuss the unrest in Ukraine and its consequences for American interests. And, as the National Governors Association meets next week in Washington, Govs. Scott Walker, R-Wis., and Peter Shumlin, D-Vt., will discuss critical issues facing the states.  “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” airs at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET on Fox News. Check local listings for air times in your area.

[Noonan: “The world is watching. Part of the story in the Ukraine is that the people are rebelling against their elites, which have cozied up to Russia for their own purposes. We won’t be seeing less of this kind of thing in the future but more. Don’t we want to be understood to be on the right side of that battle? I think our leaders are now so anxious about appearing to support entangling America in another conflict that they’ve become afraid to voice full-throated support for those who fight for principles completely in line with our own—the right of people of people to choose their own economic and governmental arrangements, and their right to resist any illegitimate limiting of their freedoms.”]

The Atlantic’s Bill Davidow considers the implications of big data on the little people. From Welcome to Algorithmic Prison: “Corporations and government are using information about us in a new – and newly insidious – way. Employing massive data files, much of the information taken from the Internet, they profile us, predict our good or bad character, credit worthiness, behavior, tastes, and spending habits – and take actions accordingly. As a result, millions of Americans are now virtually incarcerated in algorithmic prisons… we’ve reached the point where, in many cases, private companies and public institutions stand to gain more than they will lose if a lot of innocent people end up in algorithmic prison…”

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Real Clear Politics Averages

Obama Job Approval: Approve – 44.4 percent//Disapprove – 52 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 29.3 percent//Wrong Track – 63.4 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 42.6 percent// Republicans – 42.4 percent

President Obama
addressed the nation’s Democratic governors gathered in Washington this week for a meeting of the National Governors Association. Obama was speaking about the importance of the midterm elections to his agenda, but paused to muse as to why both of his victories have been followed by harsh conditions for his party in midterm election cycles. His answer: “We know how to win national elections but often we get in trouble in midterms I guess because we don’t think it’s sexy enough.”

Daily Caller: “Three months before the election, Republican businessman David Perdue holds a slim lead in the crowded field vying for the Republican nomination in the Georgia Senate race, a newpoll found. The poll, conducted by Hicks Evaluation Group and Apache Political Communications, found that the top contenders for the nomination in a virtual tie around 10 percent. Perdue, the former CEO of Dollar General and the cousin of former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, ekes out a narrow lead within the margin of error at 12.7 percent. Rep. Jack Kingston and Paul Broun are tied at 10.9 percent.”

The Hill: “Club for Growth Action launched two new attack ads on Thursday, hitting Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) on the debt and tax increases… ‘In Mississippi, Thad Cochran’s name is on lots of buildings. In Washington, Cochran’s name is on bailouts, tax hikes and debt … lots of debt,’ a narrator says in the TV ad… In the radio ad, a narrator charges Cochran’s opposition to ObamaCare wasn’t enough.

‘Sure, he voted against ObamaCare, just like every Republican. But Cochran then voted for budgets that funded ObamaCare and kept it going,’ the narrator says.”

Nebraska Republican Senate hopeful Ben Sasse has the backing of the Family Research Council, the influential social conservative group founded by James Dobson and led by Tony Perkins. Sasse, the president of Midland University, is chasing frontrunner Shane Osborn, the former state treasurer, for the GOP Senate nod.

Roll Call: “…[S]nowboarder Ryan Stassel has left the winter games in Russia and returned home to Anchorage, where he will formally endorse Alaska Senate candidate Mead Treadwell. In a statement released Thursday by the Republican’s campaign, the 21-year-old Stassel said he worked as a fisherman to support his dream of making the 2014 Winter Olympics and sees in Treadwell the same dedication it takes to become an Olympian.”

Republicans are looking to pick up six Senate seats to wrest control of the upper chamber from Democrats this fall. Which six are the most vulnerable? The current consensus among Fox News First readers: Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and Alaska. Reader Michael Warren sees a slim path for Democrats to hold on to the Senate: “The only way Democrats hold the US Senate is if [Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.] wins and the Democrats win the open seat in…Georgia.”

Share your top six picks. Email them – just your top six, please – to FOXNEWSFIRST@FOXNEWS.COM or tweet @cstirewalt.

Another Democrat has jumped into the crowded, contentious Pennsylvania gubernatorial primary. Former state auditor general Jack Wagner’s entry Thursday made it an eight-way race with no clear frontrunner. The field is crowded because Gov. Tom Corbett may be the most vulnerable incumbent Republican governor this cycle. But in such a crowded field, Democrats might end up picking a liberal dreamboat who doesn’t fit with general election voters in the Keystone State. Like maybe an environmental activist in a state loaded with coal and natural gas… Philadelphia Inquirer: “Former Vice President Al Gore has endorsed Katie McGinty’s campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor of Pennsylvania… McGinty served in the Clinton/Gore administration as Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and before that advised then-Senator Gore on climate and environmental issues. She also was an adviser to Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign.”

Toledo Blade: “Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton holds a commanding lead among Ohio voters against any of the leading potential Republican nominees, including Ohio Gov. John Kasich, in an early look at the 2016 presidential race in Ohio, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.”

A mini moon for Planet Hillary? - WaPo: “The latest destination on Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s [D-Md.] political calendar: the Badger State. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin announced Thursday that it has booked O’Malley (D), who is weighing a 2016 run for the White House, as the keynote speaker for its annual Founders Day Gala in Milwaukee. … O’Malley is also scheduled to speak in California next month as part of the state Democratic Party’s annual convention in Los Angeles.”

Washington Examiner’s David Drucker looks at the maneuvering taking place behind the scenes among House Republicans: “…there remains considerable speculation that [House Speaker John Boehner] will retire, and members interested in moving up are quietly exploring their options and laying the foundation for a leadership bid. They include members of Boehner’s team who are eyeing promotions and rank-and-file Republicans looking to win their first elected position in conference leadership. Overt campaigning, considered unseemly and counterproductive at this early stage, could accelerate over the summer…. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin is probably the only member capable of uniting Establishment and Tea Party Republicans …”

#mediabuzz: OPENING BELL 
Howard Kurtz will host special guest Maria Bartiromo to talk about the challenge of covering Wall Street and preview her Fox Business News show, “Opening Bell,” which debuts Feb. 24th. And, the media’s inflammatory role in the George Zimmerman case and the Michael Dunn verdict are buzzfare for Ric Grenell, Keli Goff and Lauren Ashburn.  Watch “#mediabuzz” Sunday at 11 a.m. ET, with a second airing at 5 p.m.

WCBS: “Just days after [New York City] Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an aggressive plan to prevent traffic deaths, CBS 2 cameras caught the driver of a car carrying the mayor violating a number of traffic laws. But the NYPD responded Thursday evening that the mayor’s caravan, which is operated by police, sometimes has to use special driving techniques for protective reasons…the mayor’s two-car caravan was seen speeding, blowing through stop signs, and violating other traffic laws. .. if the driver of the lead car, which carried the mayor in its passenger seat, had been cited, he would have racked up enough points to get his license suspended.”

[Washington Examiner’s Michael Barone considers why liberal cities have more income inequality.]

The rivalry between the U.S. and Canada in Olympic hockey will be renewed today as the men’s teams from the two nations face off for a chance to play for a gold medal this weekend. President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper have bet a case of beer on the game. (Look out for mice if it’s Elsinore, Mr. President.) But the Internet has raised the stakes considerably with this wager between the two North American countries: The loser keeps troubled pop singer and native Canadian Justin Bieber. That wager, attached to #loserkeepsbieber on Twitter, even came with a dramatic photo from Chicago sign maker @CommandSign While it may all seem to be in jest, one Florida judge must surely be hoping that it’s for real. Why’s that? His job now includes looking at video of Bieber urinating in a cup to determine if it should be released to the press. Grody, eh?  The puck drops at 11:30 a.m. ET. It’s a good bet that one court in particular will take a recess to watch.

“If government were to bring any coffee to Fox, I'd get a taster before I would touch it. Look, this is as if the IRS and the EPA and the NLRB haven’t done enough damage, the FCC now has to trample on what rights are remaining. This is an outrage disguised as a study. The FCC regulates the media and it has the power to remove your license, meaning to ruin you overnight. So any questions it asks are never innocent.” – Charles Krauthammer, On “Special Report with Bret Baier

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here. To catch Chris live online daily at 11:30 a.m. ET, click here.