Barack Herbert Hoover Obama

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.

  • Perhaps he's expecting

    World War III to truly get us out of the recession.  Worked the last time.

  • we frankly all saw this coming...

    obama...a terrific campaigner, yet can't govern a thing.

    as an organizer, obama carried out other people's leadership desires.  as a state senator, obama spent his entire time in office there running for president.

    as we all see so clearly now, what was promised in the obama campaign is nothing like what we see in office now.  from earmarks to escalating wars to moving gitmo to spending beyond belief, yet another presidency is clearly heading to sad low levels.  this is NOTHING like the change that was promised over and over again.

    which leaves the voters once again looking for those that will carry out their wishes, regardless of party both parties have been poor stewards of our america.

    politicans who have done this to us, watch america IS rising.

    • don't know why you're complaining, mirage

      This is basically a Republican proposal: starve domestic programs, do less to stimulate the economy and don't tackle waste in the defense budget.

  • Look, if we're gonna win this War On Terror...

    It's gonna take some sacrifices.

  • We have to take responsibility

    Since last Tuesday, I've been railing at my political allies to stop focusing so much on Obama and how he's "betrayed" them. I tried to inject a dose of realpolitik and encourage them to look at the situation from the perspective of someone who simply wants to get re-elected. To direct their ire anywhere but at Obama, because there's no way he's going to do what an outraged lefty base wants him to.

    This is like a punch in the gut, no question about it. But I can't let it discourage me. I have to take responsibility for my own actions. I have to turn off Jon Stewart and Colbert and drop the detached cynicism that I've lovingly nurtured since Sept. 12, 2001.

    The tea-partiers have been acting for a year as I sat on my hands and laughed at them. I'm going to get off my rear end now. I hope it isn't too late. Regardless, all I can do now is take responsibility and act. For me, that will mean calling my friends and relatives and encouraging them to act. I don't relish the task. I'd rather read my new history of the Bauhaus School of Art and Architecture. But, as desmoinesdem put it recently in describing the actions of an altruistic person like Miep Gies, who sheltered Anne Frank, I have no choice.

    • I won't do anything for Obama

      but I will find other Democrats worth supporting and help them. Keeping the state legislature out of Republican hands is going to be a high priority for me.

      I get your point, but it's hard not to be angry looking at how massively Obama has screwed over the Democratic base. He could have realigned this country in a good direction for once.  

      • Oh I'm plenty angry

        I've been reading and re-reading my Camus all day, reminding myself that action is supposed to appear pointless, futile, and absurd but that the only choice is to take action anyway.

        On the other hand, I imagine that you've been busting your you-know-what for going on three years now to get a Democrat elected president, with a nice big majority in both houses of Congress, only to have this dude announce that he's going to implement John McCain's economic program.

        While I've only recently plunged back in to caring about this stuff.

        You of all people should feel free to ignore my bombastic exhortations. I think they're mostly for myself.

        It's a sad day.

  • He's Just Casting About

    ...desperately searching for some pretty words that will resonate with the electorate.  There is no indication he actually has a clue what he's doing.  "Window dressing" indeed.

    Sometimes I think the state of Iowa owes the entire nation an apology for starting this man off on his road to the White House.

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