Priorities: Obama campaigns against spending freezes

By all accounts, Pres. Barack Obama's state of the union address will call for a three-year freeze of discretionary federal spending -- the military exempted, of course. The White House says that keeping spending at the same level for fiscal years 2011 to 2013 will save $250 billion over ten years, even though the cost-cutting 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.” It should be noted, however, that the administration has signed on to a conservative-sponsored deficit-reduction effort targeted on those very health and retirement programs.

"Among the areas that may be potentially subject to cuts: The departments of Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Energy, Transportation, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services," according to the WH.

During the presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain proposed a similar spending freeze (although his would have been across the board and would not have exempted the bloated Pentagon) which Obama repeatedly lampooned as an “example of unfair burden sharing” and “using a hatchet where you need a scalpel.” Once again, President Obama seems to be at odds with candidate Obama:

As Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a letter to colleagues over the weekend, the "American people today are suffering through the worst economy since the Great Depression with 17.3 percent of the American workforce either unemployed or underemployed." If, as many economists argue, stimulus spending is already too little, how much sense does it make to put balancing the budget ahead of jobs creation? If you follow a stimulus package with a policy that will clearly have counter-stimulative effects don't you risk looking like you don't have a clue what you're doing? Paul Krugman thinks 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;" Robert Reich believes the freeze "will make it impossible for [Obama] to do much of anything for the middle class that’s important;" and Brad DeLong argues "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."

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