So Barack Obama is including chained CPI in his budget.
I've generally defended Obama when he's charged with "bargaining with himself" and other accusations of lousy poker playing, but not on this one.
I agree with the liberal conventional wisdom on it: Obama isn't really going to win over the deficit scolds, and if he does, so what? Meanwhile, he's not going to get any closer to a grand bargain that Republicans simply don't want, while he's undercutting congressional Democrats by opening them up to the likely attacks that it's Democrats who are proposing to cut Social Security benefits.
About the best one can say for it is what Jonathan Chait says: this isn't really news, and so it's hard to say anything now about this budget that one wouldn't be saying already about the White House's fiscal cliff offer, which was already on full view at the White House web site.
But I think Chait is wrong. The budget is usually the president's opening offer in the budget game. If over the course of the year and in negotiations he eventually makes a compromise offer, that's fine -- but we're now in a new game, in a new budget year, and even with a new (and more Democratic) Congress. The best budget move at this point would be to reiterate his opening move, not to restate his compromise offer. And even if that wasn't true in the abstract and back in January when he was supposed to have submitted this budget (and, yes, there's no excuse for it being this late), we know by now that House Republicans have certainly treated their budget as an opening move -- or, really, as more of a pie-in-the-sky wish list.
Basically: there's nothing wrong with submitting a budget that's "realistic" rather than "ideal." I have no problem with that. If Obama's idea budget was the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget (and I don't know that it is, but if it was) then it still might be a good idea for him to submit the Senate Democratic budget -- a non-ideal budget he would nevertheless be reasonably happy to live under. A good idea both in terms of spin, and even in terms of bargaining; a wildly overoptimistic opening bid can sink negotiations, after all. But it sure makes a lot more sense to start negotiations -- and again, Paul Ryan has clearly indicated that for House Republicans budgets are negotiation-starters -- with "here's my bid, but I'm open to compromise" than with "here's my compromise offer, but remember that there's stuff in here that I don't really support except in the context of a compromise."
The only caveats I have is that maybe the White House is working with information the rest of us don't have...but really, I find it far more likely that the White House is fooling itself and engaging in wishful thinking.