Obama to Propose Three-Year Spending Freeze

As telegraphed late last year, and goosed by last week's Democratic debacle in Taxachusetts, President Barack Obama is pivoting to forestall a 1994-style wipeout by declaring the era of big government over before Republicans retake Congress. Politico has the story:

President Obama plans to announce a three-year freeze on discretionary, "non-security" spending in the lead-up to Wednesday's State of the Union address, Hill Democratic sources familiar with the plan tell POLITICO. [...]

The freeze would not apply to defense spending or spending on intelligence, homeland security or veterans.

Three quick reactions: 1) Great! 2) Note that this is actually more modest than what Obama repeatedly promised on the campaign trail, including after the financial crisis hit: a "net spending cut." Excluding defense is a recipe for falling short of that "net." 3) See Number 2, re: promises.

At the risk of quoting myself (which, to be fair, is still more seemly than having a researcher dig up and hype "another Welch classic"), my first post-election magazine column was dedicated to the "glimmer of possibility" that Obama's economic numbers would "add up." My argument then:

Only one pro-Obama—as opposed to anti-Republican—argument ever really resonated with me, and that was the notion that, unlike McCain and most Republican presidential nominees of recent vintage, Obama did a relatively credible job of making sure his budget figures "added up." There was, I repeatedly read and heard from economic number crunchers such as The Atlantic's Megan McArdle, a genuinely impressive attempt to translate the hot air of campaign promises into the cold reality of a plausible balance sheet. "What I've done throughout this campaign is to propose a net spending cut," Obama said in his final pre-election debate with McCain. "I have been a strong proponent of pay as you go. Every dollar [in spending] that I've proposed, I've proposed an additional cut so that it matches."

You should never take a politician at his word. But you should listen to what he campaigns on day after day, especially if he goes on to win big. Amid Obama's host of illiberal campaign ideas—"fair" trade, centralized energy policy, New Deal–style infrastructure projects, more federal dollars into the sinkhole of public schools—the Democratic candidate also spiced his daily stump speech with a firm-sounding nod to fiscal responsibility. Coupled with a sorry budget situation that's certain to get worse as a result of massive income tax losses from Wall Street, this commitment to fiscal sobriety may strangle many of Obama's more expensive fantasies in the crib and crack open the door for ending or privatizing any number of inefficient federal programs.

Well, so much for that, at least in Year One. I don't doubt that Obama has the Clinton-like political ability to pivot on a dime and sell it with brio. What I do doubt, after a year of watching him, is that he truly believes in his heart of governing hearts that this is a virtuous or workable path, or that he's particularly concerned with the considerable gap between what he promises and what he delivers. Presidents, including the last guy, whatshisname, always promise deficit-reduction in every State of the Union Address. We still haven't quite launched that Mission to Mars. I will be happy–and at this point, shocked–to be proven overly skeptical.

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  • ||

    The freeze would not apply to defense spending or spending on intelligence, homeland security or veterans.

    Or entitlements. Which constitute 59% of all expenditures, and growing.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    And if the freeze actually happens, will grow all the faster as a fraction of the whole...

  • ||

    Fun having no control over how much you're spending isn't it?

  • PIRS||

    Did Ben & Jerry's also have a George W. Bush Ice Cream?

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    Ben & Jerry's hangs out on the left side of the aisle. I'm sure they didn't do GWB.

  • Suki||

    That B&J photoshopping is racist.

  • ||

    I'm not 100% that was photoshopped.
    It's just plausible enough to be true.

  • kinnath||

    Slammed with criticism of his massive health care reform bill and the recent loss of a longtime Democratic Senate seat to a Republican, President Obama says he's not giving up his health care dreams -- even if it costs him a second term.

    "I'd rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president," Obama told ABC News Monday.

    Two birds; one stone.

  • Suki||

    Stop it with your racist physical threats!

  • PIRS||

    He may actually be forced to do this by creditors who are starting to realize that there is no way in fucking hell that we can ever pay back all of our debt - ever.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    If our creditors save our collective asses then we'd really owe them.

  • PIRS||

    I agree. It is pretty pathetic though we must hope that a Communist country will save our country from Communism.

  • ||

    They already did when they decided not to play along with the Copenhagen caper.

    -jcr

  • kiwi dave||

    I believe "Yes Pecan" was a hoax/joke, but if I'm wrong, please let me know.

    Serious question: prior to SCOTUS's decision in Citizens United, would it have been a violation of s. 203 for a corporation to name a brand of ice cream after a candidate?

  • ||

    Was it a "news" corporation? We could always make some re-definitions.
    After all, the name on a paper container might just qualify....

  • PIRS||

    If Obama really does want to do this the American people can help him along in this goal by giving him a divided government in November of 2010.

  • ||

    Obama simply can't be trusted. He doesn't do what he says he'll do. Any questions?

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    Can I be excused now?

  • ||

    is war on drugs funding discretionary or non?

  • David Axelrod||

    Why yes, yes it is.

  • ¢||

    I don't doubt that Obama has the Clinton-like political ability to pivot on a dime and sell it with brio.

    He doesn't, and he won't do it, but he has a press that says he does and will say he did, in the total absence of all "do."

    This freeze, for example, would take ten years to add up to one month's current budget deficit's worth of not-spent money, but he won't do even that, because he doesn't have to.

    Because "1) Great!"

  • ||

    Anybody taken the temperature of hell lately?

  • PIRS||

    I don't know about that. But there are people keeping track of the U.S. National debt.

    I do not know if he will even try this. If he does, it will be because his hand is forced, not because he actually will want to. He may be forced by the politics of it. More likely, if he does follow through with this, it will be because the crushing weight of the debt forced him.

    http://usdebtclock.org/

  • feisty penguin||

    My thermometer says 50 degrees. Hell is starting to cool maybe?

    ...Oh wait that's Celcius, nevermind.

  • Suki||

    Al Gore is the one you need to ask for that.

  • ||

    Sorry but the proposed freeze in spending sounds a lot like G.H.W. Bush's flexible freeze, which didn't work.

    What both Republicans and Democrats hate to admit is that it took a Republican Congress and Democratic President to balance the budget. Why? Simply, neither side was able to push forth their spending agenda, Clinton and Congress shut down the government on several occasions and finally a detente ensued in which neither side could promote their spending and or tax cutting agenda. When G.W. Bush was elected the Republicans were able to pass a series of tax cuts that spent the surplus and then some. A war of choice in Iraq ensured that the budget would remain unbalanced.

    The only hope for my children is a perpetual Republican Congress and a Democratic president in which they both declare victory while running a slight surplus until we grow our was out of 12 Trillion in debt.

    Regards

    Joe Dokes

  • ||

    or we could just scrap the whole goddamn mess, bring everything back home, tell the rest of the world to get bent, nuke DC and start over.

  • PIRS||

    I advise all of the people at CATO and the Reason FOundation to move out of DC - soon.

  • ||

    don't bother. DC is like a cockroach i'd wager...

  • Some Guy||

    That's just what we need... A radioactive Congress. They'll be shooting spending bills out of their wrists.

  • ||

    SpiderCongress is a pussy.

  • ||

    Being in the midst of one of the largest economic booms in American history also helps reduce the deficit.

  • ||

    And that boom might well have been the result of gridlock.
    We could do with a bit more.

  • ||

    w/ the current govt., gridlock's generally a good thing i'll allow.

  • Bingo||

    It wasn't the result of gridlock. The mid-to-late-90s boom was because of the internet, which represented a paradigm-shifting technological development. The gridlock enabled it to pass unimpeded. Even China experienced a boom in their economy when the internet started growing there, and they are far from a gridlocked democracy.

  • ||

    a series of tax cuts that spent the surplus and then some.

    Citation??? Typically reducing marginal tax rates does not result in a decrease in tax revenues.

  • Old Mexican||

    The only hope for my children is a perpetual Republican Congress and a Democratic president in which they both declare victory while running a slight surplus until we grow our was out of 12 Trillion in debt.

    There is no way the US can grow its way out of a 12 trillion debt - all of you are screwed. Better have those root cellars very well stocked . . .

  • Rhinehold||

    There was *NEVER* a surplus. Please stop buying the rhetoric...

    http://www.craigsteiner.us/articles/16

  • Jeffersonian||

    Since the downturn, we've done something similar, freezing our monthly spending on hamster shavings, antifreeze, commercial food slicers and Cheez-whiz. Our budget for alcohol, porn site memberships, ammunition, fireworks and bitchin' spinner rims has nearly doubled, however.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    What??!! No CHEEZE WHIZ????

    This could start a revolt you know.

  • ||

    Politically impossible. It'll totally lose them the grade school vote.

  • peachy||

    You're paying for porn? That's your first mistake, right there.

  • ||

    I have no doubt that Obama might do this, but on the other hand probably won't.

  • Naga Sadow||

    I'll believe it when I see it. Sorry but to good to be true usually is.

  • ||

    Since all the things Obama says we "must" do are by definition non-discretionary, this is essentially meaningless.

  • ||

    "I'd rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president," Obama told ABC News Monday.

    And I'd rather get a handjob from Scarlett Johansson than have sex with Danica Patrick, but neither one is going to happen so it doesn't matter.

  • ||

    or howabout brittany mur... er..uh.. never mind.

  • ||

    Meh, I'm not into women whose ribs are visible.

  • ||

    i dated a girl who was a size "zero". my kinda thing i guess. 'course she was absolutely bat-shit-crazy too...

  • ||

    She's not quite all there...but then not all of her has to be...

  • ||

    dunno; that 'one term' is looking pretty good.

  • Slap the Enlightened!||

    "I'd rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president," Obama told ABC News Monday.

    I'd say the chances are slim he'll ever be either one.

  • Rich||

    three-year freeze on discretionary, “non-security” spending

    This is meaningless until Obama precisely defines the following terms: "three-year"; "freeze"; "discretionary"; “'non-security'”; and "spending".

    Oh, and "on".

  • ||

    Maybe he means a three-year freeze, starting in 2017.

  • Rich||

    There ya go.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    If he says it then it's happened in his head and he gets credit for it, don't you know.

  • prolefeed||

    You forgot "is".

  • ||

    "I have been a strong proponent of pay as you go. Every dollar [in spending] that I've proposed, I've proposed an additional cut so that it matches."

    *AND* he's got a line on billions of dollars from a Nigerian Prince. You guys just wait!

  • ||

    Is it me, or does Obama in that photo look like Rob Bottin's creepy cab driver from Total Recall?

  • ||

    SCREW YOU BENNIE!!!!!

  • Bob||

    The key word here is "announce". Five minutes later he will then announce a big "jobs" stimulus pork package and ignore that announcement #1 is incompatible with announcement #2. The MSM will look the other way. Then, when there is no actual freeze in spending, if he is ever asked about this he will blame the Republicans.

  • Tony||

    While he's wasting time cutting taxes and spending, I do hope he's managed to fit in doing something useful for the economy.

  • Old Mexican||

    Like what?

  • Old Mexican||

    I do hope he's managed to fit in doing something useful for the economy.

    Well, he hasn't resigned, so I don't know what else he could have done . . .

  • Tony||

    While he's wasting time cutting taxes and spending, I do hope he's managed to fit in doing something useful for the economy.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    That's well under control. With the Democrats being the single biggest unknown and unknowable variable in the US economy, they could keep the US economy on the ropes forever and ever amen.

  • Slap the Enlightened!||

    We still haven't quite launched that Mission to Mars.

    Don't count on living long enough to see this country ever go anywhere again.

    We're all Enlightened now!

  • ||

    see ya soon!

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    Buzz off. We're doing a fine job of going to hell.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    There really is a difference in the way Democrats and Republicans do things. The Republicans may be spending the government into oblivion, but they at least let the rest of us make money too on the way down. It's great until you hit bottom.

    The Democrats OTOH have to try and copy FDR, so the rest of us can't make money on the ride down. While they're spending the government into oblivion. And then we hit bottom.

    But they both do a fine job of getting us to hell.

  • Johnny Longtorso||

    Will he freeze the chemtrails?

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    No. But my grandfather used to talk about things that would scald the balls of a brass monkey.

    But I'll have to stop there because this could start sounding really racist from here on.

  • ||

    He's only freezing the exponent used to describe the increase over last year's budget.

    He's "cubing" spending, not "curbing" it.

  • Warty||

  • ||

    A three year spending "freeze" assuredly works the same way as when the usual suspects call reductions in spending increases "cuts".

    See, you just have to parse through his language: just replace every single thing he says with "ha, that was a lie, you tools".

  • Warty||

    "ha, that was a lie, you tools"

    Or, in his first language, "GARRRRRR HURRRRR RAPE!"

    That's right. Our African-based president is a rapist. And an ape. Plus, he listens to screamo.

  • ||

    PRESIDENT OF USA NOT STEVE SMITH! STEVE PRESIDENT OF SASKATOON LARP ASSOCIATION, NOT AMERICA!

  • Warty||

    I hate you more than ever for alerting me to the existence of theatre LARP.

  • ||

    Mission accomplished. Plus, they're Canadian LARPers. Seriously, go look at the Gallery section. If you think you hate me now, well, think again.

  • Warty||

    This is always how I've pictured you. Just look at jaunty pose you strike.

  • ||

    How ironic, I was just remarking to your mom (her mouth is full) that the other guy in the picture is the way I've always pictured you, though with even more hair. When she's done I'll have her tell me how accurate I've been.

  • Warty||

    No, no, you furry fool, that is Steve Smith wearing a wig. The priest costume makes the rape almost too easy...almost.

  • Naga Sadow||

    SATISFACTION

    The natrual state of watching Epi and Warty go ape shit on each other.

    Good times . . .

  • ||

    Warty, let's go apeshit on Naga.

  • Warty||

    Naga...tonight...you.

  • Naga Sadow||

    I don't fear pillpoppers or anal rapists. I'm heading to bed and I'm gonna sleep. Sleep the sleep of a man who's lived without regrets. The deep slumber of a man who isn't gonna be anally raped or awkwardly beaten by a tweaker.

  • ||

    The more soundly you sleep, the easier it makes it. Remember, all Warty knows is "ball" and "good"...and "rape".

  • Old Mexican||

    President Obama plans to announce a three-year freeze on discretionary, "non-security" spending[...]

    Sorry, Valerie - no more "interns" for you...

  • ||

    I can't wait for the next "emergency" stimulus package. Also surprisingly exempt from the freeze.

  • j.i.am||

    A federal gov't hiring and pay freeze would be more effective.

    The hiring freeze would allow attrition to reduce the workforce.

    A pay freeze would give competent and ambitious gov't worker some incentive to move to the private sector. It would also discourage new college students from trying to get degrees in "Public Sector Management" and the like.

    Both actions would reduce the amount of clever new ideas to spend other people's money.

    I was watching Jeopardy the other night and the final question was something like "Which city has the two wealthiest suburbs in the US. Hint: It's not in CA or NY".

  • adam||

    Or it would result in the same thing that's happened during previous hiring and pay freezes- increases in the contractor and grantee workforce and even less control over how federal money gets spent.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    "Less control"... hee hee... aw, aren't you just adorable...

  • adam||

    "I was watching Jeopardy the other night and the final question was something like "Which city has the two wealthiest suburbs in the US. Hint: It's not in CA or NY"."

    That's almost certainly from contractor and grantee employees, not federal employees. The number of federal employees has stayed pretty much flat over the last 30 years (about 2M give or take) and salaries have stayed pretty much in line relative to the rest of the economy. The contractor and grantee workforce on the other hand has boomed, and they often have execs and others who are paid far more than any federal employee.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Put America Back to Work!
    Reduce Federal Employment!

  • ||

    Proposing and "Happening" are two totally different things LOL.

    RT
    www.online-privacy.int.tc

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    Did...did the anonymity bot just hit the nail on the head more succinctly than anyone else on this page?

    SKYNET IS SELF AWARE

  • Johnny Longtorso||

    There is no Bot but the Anonymity Bot, and Pingback is his prophet.

    http://www.online-piracy.int.tc/

  • adam||

    Hmm...I seem to remember a certain candidate criticizing another candidate for his plan to enact a spending freeze. What was the phrase? Oh yes, that's a hatchet when what you need is a scalpel.

    "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 in debate with McCain.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    And I propose that monkeys will fly out of my butt.

    I think I like my odds better.

  • dino||

    three year spending freeze wont mean shit unless we stop spending money on the drug war and greatly reduce military spending.

  • MikeS||

    The thing about this spending freeze is he's freezing it at 2010 levels, when it's inflated by the stimulus. The budget already had big cuts in discretionary spending as the stimulus wound down. He's just promising not to entirely undo those cuts.

    Like I said, this stimulus is going to be much more expensive than $800 billion

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