Well, the Dems appear to have had their run of things for a year. Cue the removal of spines and the coming capitulation to the new “majority” in Congress:

The Obama administration has announced that in tomorrow’s State of the Union address, President Obama will call for a freeze on non-defense discretionary spending. The freeze — which will keep fiscal year 2012 and 2013 spending at the 2011 level — is designed to save $250 billion over ten years, and will “exempt security-related budgets for the Pentagon, foreign aid, the Veterans Administration and homeland security, as well as the entitlement programs that make up the biggest and fastest-growing part of the federal budget: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.”

Of course, during the Presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) proposed a similar spending freeze, which Obama repeatedly condemned as an “example of unfair burden sharing,” and “using a hatchet where you need a scalpel.” […]

Many economists have blasted the plan for its potentially anti-stimulative effects and its focus on spending that is not the root cause of the country’s long-term deficits. Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman wrote that the freeze is “appalling on every level…shifting attention away from the essential need to reform health care and focusing on small change instead.” Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich said that the freeze “will make it impossible for [Obama] to do much of anything for the middle class that’s important.” U.C. Berkeley economist Brad DeLong added “this is a perfect example of fundamental unseriousness: rather than make proposals that will actually tackle the long-term deficit…come up with a proposal that does short-term harm to the economy without tackling the deficit in any serious and significant way.”

And at its core, Obama’s decision cedes to the right-wing both the idea that blanket cuts are necessary and the notion that cuts should be focused on domestic programs while defense spending goes untouched. And already, the right-wing is claiming the freeze as a victory, with the National Review’s Jim Geraghty writing, “if the arguments in the coming years are between spending freezes and spending cuts, then we’ve already won.”

So, election year gimmick? Yep, I think so. I really did wish that the Democrats would have been able to hold onto their balls for a little bit longer.

Alas, history repeats itself.

  1. Gherald says:

    The spending cap doesn't start till FY 2012 (at FY 2011 levels, which will be up from FY 2010), so speaking of nonstimulative effects is off the mark.

    I'm not sure what to say about the proposal overall. It does seem gimmicky and ineffective, but I'll try not to be too cynical. Baby steps in the right direction are still steps.

    • Metavirus says:

      this by nate silver seems right to me:

      "I'll let the economists talk about the wisdom of curtailing government spending in the middle of a massive consumption deficit, but what concerns me more is the politics. Specifically, the sort of cognitive dissonance that is going to be created in the mind of the average voter when the White House is promising to freeze spending on the one hand (or, more accurately, this will be the media caricature of their gambit), and on the other, trying to defend its stimulus and its health care reform package, trying to excuse the bailout package as a necessary evil, and perhaps trying to champion new programs." http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2010/01/white-hous

    • Metavirus says:

      and this "To me, it sounds like Obama has decided to imitate Bill Clinton, except that he’s going to skip 1994 and jump right to 1995-1996–the years that gave us welfare reform and the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, among other things. Deficit reduction is a classic “Third Way” policy, but by doing it this way Obama is ceding ground to the government-haters (who just want to cut spending) without getting anything (future tax increases, or votes for health care reform) in return. As DeLong says, “it would be one thing to offer a short-term discretionary spending freeze (or long-run entitlement caps) in return for fifteen Republican senators signing on to revenue enhancement triggers. It’s quite another to negotiate against yourself and in addition attack employment in the short term.” http://baselinescenario.com/2010/01/26/the-second

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