Please tell me our president is smarter than this:
President Obama will propose freezing non-security discretionary government spending for the next three years, a sweeping plan to attempt deficit reduction that will save taxpayers $250 billion over 10 years.
When the administration releases its budget next week, the discretionary spending for government agencies from Health and Human Services to the Department of Treasury will be frozen at its 2010 level in fiscal years 2011, 2012 and 2013. […]
Exempted from the freeze would be Pentagon funding, and the budgets for Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security.
Instead of delivering his State of the Union address this week, Barack Obama may as well hold up a big sign that says, “I want Democrats to lose Congress.” Over at Daily Kos, eugene explains why:
That will be the equivalent of FDR’s boneheaded move in 1937 to pull back on government spending. The result was a major recession that caused conservatives to win a lot of seats in the 1938 election and brought the New Deal to an end.
Yet FDR had already won his second term. Obama, on the other hand, is embracing a policy that has been proven to fail even before the midterm elections.
If he thinks this is even a realistic or economically feasible policy, he is out of his mind. If he thinks this will save his and Democrats’ political bacon, he is very badly mistaken. Only greater government spending – MUCH greater spending – will pull us out of recession, create jobs, and produce lasting recovery.
Without greater spending, Obama is implying he is willing to live with high unemployment for the remainder of his first term. If one wanted to deal with the deficit, he could follow Bill Clinton’s model of producing economic growth that would close the deficit in future years.
Economically, this course would be a disaster, but politically it’s even a worse move. During the presidential campaign, Obama promised hundreds of times that we would be able to spend more on various domestic priorities because we wouldn’t be spending $200 billion a year in Iraq. With the escalation in Afghanistan, the combined cost of our commitments there and in Iraq will now exceed Bush administration levels, and Obama isn’t cutting fat from other areas in the Pentagon budget to make up for it.
It’s as if Obama wants Democrats to stay home this November.
A month ago, I would have said Republicans had a 10 to 20 percent chance of retaking the House and zero chance of retaking the Senate. The Massachusetts election has already prompted several Democratic incumbents to retire and prospective challengers not to run. If Obama puts deficit reduction ahead of job creation this year, I give the GOP a good chance of winning the House and an outside shot at taking the Senate (which would require a nine-seat gain, assuming Joe Lieberman would switch parties).
Obama told Diane Sawyer today, “I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president.” At this rate, he’ll be neither.
UPDATE: So some people are claiming this is no big deal because the spending freeze isn’t an across-the-board freeze, “would apply to a relatively small portion of the federal budget” and locks in a bunch of spending increases from last year. I am not interested in endlessly increasing the defense budget while holding the line on the EPA, Energy, Transportation, HUD and other areas. That’s not the agenda Obama campaigned on, and it’s not smart from any perspective.
Chris Bowers raises a better point, which is that “the people who actually write spending bills—members of the House Appropriation and Budget committees—say they won’t be freezing or cutting social spending.” So this is just window dressing for the State of the Union to show the wise men of the beltway that Obama is very, very concerned about the deficit. Still not the kind of leadership we need from our president.
SECOND UPDATE: Brad DeLong has a must-read post up on this proposal (“Dingbat Kabuki”).
THIRD UPDATE: Turkana helpfully compiled excerpts from seven liberal economists’ comments on Obama’s new proposal. Spoiler alert: they’re not impressed.