Candidate Barack Obama in 2008 on John McCain’s suggestiion for a spending freeze:
“The problem with a spending freeze is you’re using a hatchet where you need a scalpel. There are some programs that are very important that are underfunded,” Obama says in his first debate against Republican candidate John McCain, who was pushing a spending freeze.
“That is an example of an unfair burden sharing,” Obama says of McCain’s proposal in the second debate. “That’s using a hatchet to cut the federal budget. I want to use a scalpel so that people who need help are getting help and those of us like myself and Senator McCain who don’t need help aren’t getting it. That is how we make sure that everybody is willing to make a few sacrifices.”
“It sounds good,” Obama says of the proposal during the third debate. “It is proposed periodically. It doesn’t happen. And in fact an across-the-board spending freeze is a hatchet and we do need a scalpel because there are some programs that don’t work at all. There are some programs that are underfunded and I want to make sure that we are focused on those programs that work.”
President Obama now:
WASHINGTON — President Obama will call for a three-year freeze in spending on many domestic programs, and for increases no greater than inflation after that, an initiative intended to signal his seriousness about cutting the budget deficit, administration officials said Monday.
The officials said the proposal would be a major component both of Mr. Obama’s State of the Union address on Wednesday and of the budget he will send to Congress on Monday for the fiscal year that begins in October.
The freeze would cover the agencies and programs for which Congress allocates specific budgets each year, including air traffic control, farm subsidies, education, nutrition and national parks.
But it would 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.
The payoff in budget savings would be small relative to the deficit: The estimated $250 billion in savings over 10 years would be less than 3 percent of the roughly $9 trillion in additional deficits the government is expected to accumulate over that time.
The initiative holds political risks as well as potential benefits. Because Mr. Obama plans to exempt military spending while leaving many popular domestic programs vulnerable, his move is certain to further anger liberals in his party and senior Democrats in Congress, who are already upset by the possible collapse of health care legislation and the troop buildup in Afghanistan, among other things.
Yeah. Suffice it to say that the left – led by Kruggie – is losing it this morning over this news. I have to ask: Does this make Kruggie guilty of “treason” against the American people? After all, he suggested that any climate change “deniers” who were still left out there were guilty of treason against the planet for ‘denying the obvious.’ Well, it’s pretty obvious to me – and many others – that spending is out of control and needs to be contained. It sounds like the Obama administration is of a similar mindset – at least publicly, anyway. Kruggie? Not so much.
But I digress …
Though it doesn’t tackle nearly enough of the budget items it should, it’s a good start, right? A concession of sorts. Jim Geraghty responds to critics:
My argument is not “hooray Obama” and in fact it doesn’t have much to do with Obama’s specific proposal. My argument is that we’ve gotten a man who campaigned on expanding government to concede that his vision is not affordable. This is an enormous opportunity for those who want to see a smaller, more focused government.
For starters, any Democrat who opposes the spending freeze can now be justifably painted as reckless, out of control, unserious about budget matters and a threat to the nation’s long-term economic future. “Even President Obama says we have to freeze spending now. Why is Congressman So-and-so now calling for even more spending that we can’t afford?” There is enormous potential to drive a deep wedge between Obama and a large part of the Democratic caucus.
Second, by making this proposal, Obama is conceding a large portion of the terms of the debate. For all extents and purposes, spending increases are now off the table. Will Obama probably switch back and propose more spending in coming years? Of course. But now the GOP can point to Obama’s own proposals and own words, not just as a candidate – because we know all of those statements come with an expiration date — but the centerpiece of his first State of the Union.
And isn’t it interesting that this sudden ‘concern’ in the level of spending just happens to take root less than a week after Scott Brown’s upset victory in MA? Think the administration is starting to wake up and see the light on the issue of excessive government spending, or is this nothing more than a not so clever ruse designed to play off of Scott Brown’s campaign promises for fiscal restraint and responsiblity, promises that helped him win in “Ted Kennedy’s seat“? My money’s on the latter.