I've seen a fair number of people today complaining that, given the election results last fall, the publication of this year's budget by the White House is more rhetoric and campaign positioning than it is actual policy-making. You hear the word "kabuki" a lot.
I disagree! Obviously the president won't get what he wants from Congress. But the budget is an important statement of "what he wants." It's true that it's tailored for the budget wars, so it's not an indication of what Barack Obama would want in a world in which he has all the choices, but it does signal, over and over again, which programs he's going to fight for and which he's not, what the overall budget strategy he'll fight for will be, and, worth less but still not useless, on what terms and even what language he's going to use to fight for those things.
So, while he's not going to win all of those fights outright, it surely matters to recipients of Pell Grants, for example, what Obama's position is going to be this year.
Some links...the president's budget. The New York Times budget graphic (nice). Budget junkie Stan Collender has an ode to digital budgets that really applies to, well, everything in politics. Several good posts from Ezra Klein today...I'll link to this one, but read 'em all. And a short budget process primer for beginners that I did last year -- or if you want a spiffier and not that much longer version, go to CBPP.