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Robert Greenstein, executive director of the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said the commission on occasion would set out a funding target without specifics for how to meet it - much as Mr. Obama’s budget does in key areas such as his proposed transportation spending increase.

“The idea that the fiscal commission had detailed proposals to get to all its fiscal goals that the president ignored really isn’t right,” he said.

Other analysts said the president was squandering the moment.

“The president has reneged on his modest pledge last year to bring deficit spending down to 3 percent of GDP by 2015, and he’s also ignored the recommendations of his own deficit commission,” said David Primo, a scholar at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center. “If he won’t step up now, when will he? Once the economy recovers, we’ll hear that tax revenues are up and that cuts aren’t needed. If the economy worsens, we’ll hear that more failed stimulus spending is needed.”

To be sure, Mr. Obama is not the first president to duck major changes, nor is he the first to employ techniques to make the budget look better.

In some instances, such as transportation, the president counted on future revenue, though he didn’t say where the money would come from. Other times, Mr. Obama took 10 years’ worth of revenue and spent it all in one or two years upfront. While that conforms to budget rules, it just shifts the long-term challenge from one account to another.

Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican and one of the commission’s members, said Mr. Obama made a political choice in the budget not to pursue the commission’s recommendations.

“I think they’re not about to expose themselves until they can get an agreement, and I think the budget is unfortunate,” he said. “We needed strong, courageous leadership right now.”

He said there is something to Mr. Lew’s point that a unilateral plan from the president could be counterproductive, but said the administration has not made use of the three months since the election to begin the conversation all sides agree needs to happen.