Obama Budget to Call for Freeze in Non-Security Discretionary Spending
Wow, a three year across the board spending freeze on everything except national defense! Not so much. Matthew Yglesias:
The freeze would not apply to the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Homeland Security, or to the foreign operations budget of the State Department. The official emphasized that the freeze is not the only element of the administration’s plans for deficit reduction, just the only element he was prepared to discuss on this particular call. “This is only one component of an overall budget,” he said, “you’ll see other components on Monday.”The three year "freeze" begins in 2012,will barely effect the deficit (if at all) and is mainly designed to act as a political tool. The Wall Street Journal:
So is this an across-the-board freeze like we’ve heard Republicans call for? No, it’s “not a blunt across the board freeze.” Rather, some agencies will see their budgets go up and others will go down, producing an overall freeze effect. The senior official sought to portray this as not just a question of spending less money, but of getting our money’s worth—cutting (unspecified) ineffective programs and spending more on programs that work. (emphasis added)
This of course leaves some serious unanswered questions about both specifics and political strategy. To try to game this out, let’s assume that Obama is really serious about tackling weak claims rather than weak claimants. That means you’ll see a proposal for drastic, politically unrealistic cuts in farm subsidies while keeping in place growing funding for useful things like community health centers. So what happens when that hits congress?
The freeze would affect $447 billion in spending, or 17% of the total federal budget, and would likely be overtaken by growth in the untouched areas of discretionary spending. It's designed to save $250 billion over the coming decade, compared with what would have been spent had this area been allowed to rise along with inflation.In other words, the plan can be summed up in three words, not so much.
The greatest advantage to Obama is that he can make it appear that Conservatives are not the fiscal hawks they claim to be. Because this is not an across the board cut Obama can aim all the cuts at programs that Conservatives hold dear, poor that money in to program that progressives favor and then when Conservatives squawk Obama can accuse them of not being serious about trimming the deficit.
Obama believes that the American people are too stupid to understand what he is trying to do. I think we understand just fine.