Pages Menu
TwitterRssFacebook
Categories Menu

Posted by on Jan 26, 2010 in Breaking News, Economy, Health, Politics, Society | 22 comments

Déja Vu Again and Again and Again

Ezra Klein made this point on Countdown last night:

The devil here is in the details. The administration is proposing specific cuts in the budget. Most expect those cuts to be pretty unobjectionable. Some programs — particularly in the education and health spheres — will even see increases. But it’ll be hard to evaluate the policy until we see where the savings are actually coming from. “Non-security discretionary spending” is a big category.

Then comes the collision between the budget and Congress. And here things get dicier. Congress can stick to the administration’s freeze but throws out the administration’s proposed cuts. The way this works is simple: The administration will target worthless programs, like agricultural subsidies, in order to preserve good programs. But the reason worthless programs live in budget after budget is they have powerful backers. And those backers will rush to Congress to protect their profits. You think Blanche Lincoln, who chairs the Senate Agricultural Committee and is behind in the polls for her 2010 reelection, is going to let her state’s subsidies get gored?

Now you’ve removed some of the cuts, but you still want to hit the overall target. So the cuts could get reapportioned to hit programs that lack powerful constituencies. Many of those programs help the poor.

The danger of proposing a freeze is that the focus is on the freeze, not the precise mix of policies that leads to it. And so it’s a lot easier for Congress to change the mix than reject the overall freeze. But a freeze is very hard to do right, particularly in tough economic times. Doing it wrong would be a catastrophe.

Doing it right would be a catastrophe, too. Either way, Obama is putting a big sandwich board on himself and his party with “KICK ME” written in black Magic Marker. I mean, I think this is what is called “asking for it.” Ezra Klein, in a different post, resurrects this video of Obama challenging John McCain in the first debate about the efficacy of spending freezes in a recession. Ezra’s commentary is below the video.

… you can’t look at this as anything less than a tremendous defeat for the Obama administration. It’s not the policy itself. The freeze locks in a post-stimulus, and potentially post-jobs-bill, level of spending. It’s not terribly onerous. But it’s also the administration’s white flag on the argument that the deficit must be understood as a health-care reform problem rather than a taxes and spending problem. This was their most audacious effort to change the way Americans think, and it didn’t work. For all the effort Democrats put into building a health-care bill that cuts the deficit, a full 60 percent of Americans think (pdf) the legislation increases the deficit. Only 15 percent think it’s a deficit reducer.
This is one of those moments when liberals and conservatives agree — but not in a way that should make hearts glow in the White House. Here is Rich Lowry at The Corner:
I’m delighted by Obama’s freeze. Not because it will make much difference in the federal budget, as has been ably pointed out by many in this space. But because Obama has given away important intellectual and political ground. It’s not true that politicians can really “say anything.” Spin has to have some connection to reality and a politician’s case has to cohere. What Obama has just done is blow a huge hole in the argument for his own governance over the last year. If the economy is still weak but we can freeze discretionary spending anyway, it’s much harder for him to argue that massive government spending is the predicate for economic growth in defense of the stimulus. And if the deficit is such a threat that he needs to swing around to supporting a spending freeze, it’s much harder for him to continue to push for a new $1 trillion entitlement. He can try to square all this — stimulus spending was necessary in the dire conditions of 2009, but less so now; the new $1 trillion health-care entitlement is actually a deficit-reduction measure — but it’s going to be very difficult.
Those on the right who do not think Obama’s freeze is a boon, think it’s a joke — too little to make any difference, and purely symbolic — as do many on the left, such as economist Brad DeLong:
As one deficit-hawk journalist of my acquaintance says this evening, this is a perfect example of fundamental unseriousness: rather than make proposals that will actually tackle the long-term deficit–either through future tax increases triggered by excessive deficits or through future entitlement spending caps triggered by excessive deficits–come up with a proposal that does short-term harm to the economy without tackling the deficit in any serious and significant way.
It’s hard — actually, it’s impossible — to overstate the lashing Obama is getting from his base. Paul Rosenberg at Open Left calls him “an idiot”:

… After passing a stimulus that most economists (not just liberal ones) said was too small, and that was made even more inadequate by being heavily tilted toward poor-performing tax-cuts, Obama is now intentionally recreating FDR’s mistake of 1937, when he prematurely cut back spending to try to balance the budget, and sent the country into a new recession.Let me repeat that. …:

Obama is now intentionally recreating FDR’s mistake of 1937, when he prematurely cut back spending to try to balance the budget, and sent the country into a new recession.

Specifically: He’s going to announce a spending freeze on domestic programs (but not, of course, on the military) that is “projected to save $250 billion.”  The rationale is that he wants to appease folks worried about runaway deficits.  Which is just what FDR was worried about in 1937.

This is Bush-style idiocy.  There is no other word for it.

Nate Silver calls it “a mistake on par with John McCain’s ‘suspending my campaign’ gaffe.”

In a perfect bit of poetic irony, John McCain announced his support for Pres. Obama’s proposal-to-be.

Finally, Paul Krugman is, as usual on this subject, scathing:

It’s bad long-run fiscal policy, shifting attention away from the essential need to reform health care and focusing on small change instead.

And it’s a betrayal of everything Obama’s supporters thought they were working for. Just like that, Obama has embraced and validated the Republican world-view — and more specifically, he has embraced the policy ideas of the man he defeated in 2008. A correspondent writes, “I feel like an idiot for supporting this guy.”

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2010 The Moderate Voice
  • Axel Edgren

    Reaganism claims another victim? Obama’s SOTU is very important – it will show whether Obama caves and steers the ship tighter towards the center (of the whirlpool) or if he smacks everyone up and says “Straight ahead, skippers, I’m the captain here for a reason”.

  • dduck12

    There’s no anger like a spurned lover.
    “Relationships too often end with feelings of hurt, longing, and craving. A new study suggests that scientists can see those emotions reflected in brain images of lovers who were recently spurned.”

    • Axel Edgren

      There’s nothing that can take away the joy of McCain supporters not seeing him elected. There’s nothing like the joy of knowing you supported the superior man by using superior reasoning, and seeing the inferior man fail – rebuked, deemed unfit.If Obama had spent the stimulus money on the wrong country, killing a million of its inhabitants in the process, I would indeed feel “spurned”. But then again, it is my capacity to change my mind (and not stick to my convictions like a psychotic dog) that let’s me feel angry at Obama, and I would not trade away that capacity for anything in the world. I supported Obama over McCain. That will always be to my credit.

      • dduck12

        I supported Obama over McCain. That will always be to my credit.”

        And I supported McCain, but reluctantly because of Palin. Much to my credit. (At least I never got to be spurned.) “Superior man” my a__.

      • Leonidas

        I supported Obama over McCain. That will always be to my credit.

        Not the type of credit I’d be proud of,

    • kathykattenburg

      But not in brain images of voters who were betrayed by the person they voted for. So what’s the connection?

  • Zzzzz

    So basically these deficit hawks are reacting the same way the healthcare reform advocates were acting… Obama offers them a tiny slice of pie, and they start foaming at the mouth and screaming, ‘WHY DIDN’T YOU GIVE ME THE WHOLE F***ING PIE!!!!’

  • DLS

    The rabid types continue to be extra fulminant right now, at any gimmick that hints at responsibility and logical behavior, however overdue and ironic in Obama’s and other Dems’ cases.

  • shannonlee

    It is the people that voted Bush and then Obama that should really feel like fools.

    • Leonidas

      It is the people that voted Bush and then Obama that should really feel like fools.

      They don’t have to come as a set, anyone who voted for either of them alone should feel the fool as well, just not as big of one.

      Of course easy for me to say, I didn’t vote for either.

      • kathykattenburg

        I don’t feel like a fool at all. I do think of Barack Obama as a fool right now. He’s acting like a fool. But I don’t regret voting for him.

        • Leonidas

          I don’t feel like a fool at all. I do think of Barack Obama as a fool right now. He’s acting like a fool. But I don’t regret voting for him.

          I said “should feel the fool” Kathy, not just “feel the fool”. =P

          • kathykattenburg

            Well, I don’t “feel” the fool, either — why should I?

            Edited: Or, rather, I don’t feel that I “should” feel the fool.

  • Leonidas

    Obama is not about to suggest cuts to defense after making discretionary spending part of his plan for Afghanistan. Remember he allowed himself leeway to increase troop numbers on the recommendation of his commanders when he send additional troops over. Sure he touted a much lower number, but the plan had that provision in it, he just didn’t advertise it fearing a backlash from the left-wing of the democratic party. Now they are starting to realize that that provision was there all along.

  • Leonidas

    BTW here is an area that could use some more spending

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/01/25/obama-gets-f-stopping-spread-weapons-mass-destruction/

    A bipartisan, independent commission on stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction says that the Obama administration has failed in its first year in office to do enough to prevent a germ weapons attack on America or to respond quickly and effectively should such an attack occur.

    In a 19-page report card being published Tuesday, the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation and Terrorism, chaired by former Senators Bob Graham, a Democrat from Florida, and Jim Talent, a Missouri Republican, gives the new administration the grade of “F” for failing to take key steps the commission outlined just over a year ago in its initial report.

  • DLS

    Meanwhile, the stupid whining of the far Left is stupid, and shallow, and transparent.

    Look at predictable hack Paul Krugman:

    “It’s bad long-run fiscal policy, shifting attention away from the essential need to reform health care and focusing on small change instead.”

    Of course, Krugman didn’t express this position when the Dems were misspending with the stimulus — but reckless spending is okay by him; in fact, he believes we need much more of it, and that the lack of reckless spending is what is making the stimulus ineffective.

    But where was he when Obama took time out to throw a sop to the gay community recently, or when he pushed in his public statements for approval and for “urgency” of passing idiotic energy legislation in the House?

    [“Climate change” psyientology legislation is AOK, not a distraction from health care, it seems]

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/07/opinion/07krugman.html?_r=1

    http://topics.nytimes.com/top/opinion/editorialsandoped/oped/columnists/paulkrugman/index.html?offset=0&s=newest

  • DLS

    “There’s nothing like the joy of knowing you supported the superior man by using superior reasoning, and seeing the inferior man fail.”

    Maybe someday you’ll have the opportunity to experience it.

  • Kathy,

    Good post and roundup. The only issue I have is with Ezra Klein’s contention the health care bill would reduce the deficit, which simply cannot happen as long as health care costs are rising much faster than inflation and even the supporters of the bill don’t claim that it would reduce cost growth more than a percentage point or two.

    I’ve been thinking about this all day and reading about it and I just don’t see an upside on this for Obama much less the country.

    • kathykattenburg

      There is no inflation right now. We’re in a deep recession. That’s why a proposal to cut spending is so insane.

      • I know, I’m agreeing with you!

        • kathykattenburg

          Thank you. 🙂

  • DLS

    Obama now is also freezing salaries of some top White House people. No pay cuts, no layoffs. (Well, it’s extra clumsy to lay off people when he has yet to fill all his executive positions at the same time.) I don’t believe this means we can expect less greed and venality when it comes to future tax increases.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN2612953320100127

Twitter Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com