The point is that a nation must be able to adapt its spending priorities, sometimes swiftly, in response to unforeseen contingencies. That’s harder to do when so many resources are pre-committed to a handful of worthy but expensive entitlements. In a federal budget of nearly $4 trillion, the president and Congress will argue over about $1 trillion, divided roughly evenly between defense needs and every other federal function. Under these circumstances, even the most modest policy prescription becomes a recipe for political trench warfare.
This structural problem requires credible structural reform — to both entitlements and taxes. In that respect, Mr. Obama’s budget is just the latest in a long line of plans, from Democrats and Republicans, that fails to deliver what the country most needs. Sooner or later, change must come, and preferably before a crisis forces it on us.