Should conservatives get behind Obama’s spending freeze?

posted at 11:36 am on January 26, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

One effect of Barack Obama’s intention to freeze a small portion of federal spending has become apparent — conservatives have mixed emotions on how to approach it.  Many have, as Jazz Shaw puts it, “heaped scorn” on the idea for reasons I’ve already outlined.  Others like Bill Kristol see opportunity to turn public perception around towards better fiscal discipline:

Republicans, in a spirit of bipartisanship, should praise the president for beginning to come to his senses about too much government spending (and for acknowledging at the same time that national security spending can’t be frozen). They can point out that of course in the spirit of the spending freeze we can’t be creating new and expensive entitlements (health care). And then they can work to expand the discussion of how we’re going to deal with the deficit and the debt by re-limiting the size and scope of the federal government. Obama’s pseudo-spending freeze is a chance for Republicans to be (refreshingly!) bipartisan, and to take advantage of Obama’s willingness to move the debate over the rest of this year to a terrain—who will constrain big government?–that is good for them, and the country.

Jim Geraghty agrees:

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.

These are good points, and well taken.  If Republicans want to be seen as the party of reduced federal spending, then we have to support, well, reduced federal spending.  Even steps in the right direction should come with positive reactions, especially since they do create a baseline of expectation that further increases will break these pledges — even if Obama attempts to explain that the increases were exempted from the freeze.  It makes all of his potential big-spending programs that much more politically fraught, and Democrats supporting them that much more politically vulnerable, in the long run.

So we should say that a spending freeze on the small portion of the budget that Obama highlights is good — for a start.  As Veronique de Rugy makes clear, though, the real budget problems don’t come from this portion of the budget anyway.  Furthermore, the spending “freeze” is still mainly a sham that follows on a three-year period of Democratic budgeting that increased federal outlays more than the previous six years of Republican budgeting ($900 billion, possibly more, to $800 billion).  Republicans need to make that point very clear and argue that while a freeze is the first step, the next step must be to roll back those federal-budget increases back to at least 2007 levels in order to actually impact the budget deficit, let alone long-term debt.  That will require significant cuts in federal programs that Democrats created or inflated over the last three years while having control of the pursestrings.

What do you think?  Take the poll on how Republicans should respond to the Obama freeze proposal:



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Comment pages: 1 2 3

No . . . it’s a ploy with little real utility. Don’t fall for it. Every time this guy gets in trouble he pulls some useless gimmick out of his backside and panders to the “middle class” . . . whatever that is. He has nothing to offer but cheap beads and trinkets.

rplat on January 26, 2010 at 6:29 PM

Also, the GOP should use this proposal to bring up that idiocy about The Precedent having his cabinet members each cut $100 million (LOL) from their budgets and it took them something like 3 months to do it – and they were all late. Somebody should bring this up again. It was pretty funny.

neurosculptor on January 26, 2010 at 6:43 PM

TRAP.
TRAP.
TRAAAAAAAAAAAAAPPP!!!!!!!!!!!!

SURE. It makes sense.
SURE. It’s a start.

WRONG.
WRONG.
WRONG.

It’s politics.

KEEP YOUR EYES ON NOVEMBER 2010.

Say no, and then go after the big kahuna of the Obama/Democrat Congress Spending Fiasco of 2009/2010.

Lockstein13 on January 26, 2010 at 6:47 PM

Its kind of ridiculous to “freeze” spending for (only) 3 years after most programs have been increased by about 50% over this last year. Its just a fraud, but the republicans should back it with while explaining the truth of the situation. Otherwise, the MSM will spin them as “the party of no”.

JeffVader on January 26, 2010 at 6:52 PM

The Republicans need to stay clear of this guy and any of his conjured up phony initiatives. His next offer to the “middle class” will probably be $100,000.00 cash, a new Lexus and dinner at your favorite restaurant. Don’t laugh . . . nothing is beyond pale for Obama.

rplat on January 26, 2010 at 7:34 PM

oh yes, conservatives should get behind Avatar.

rayra on January 26, 2010 at 7:40 PM

oh wait.

rayra on January 26, 2010 at 7:40 PM

Ummmm. this is like shacking up with a nympho for a solid year and then vowing to remain celibate for the next three.

Laughable.

ted c on January 26, 2010 at 9:27 PM

From the huff po:

Finally a politican keeping campaign promises, unfortunately for those of you who voted for him he’s working on keeping Mcain’s campaign promises.
Obama is a closet Republican.

Whoa, ouch! That might leave a mark!

ted c on January 26, 2010 at 9:29 PM

Should conservatives get behind Obama’s spending freeze?

NO!
It’s a fraud! Messiah is trying to lock in the obscene increases of the past year given to his pet agencies: EPA, etc.
DON’T fall for it!!!

n0doz on January 26, 2010 at 9:40 PM

It is Congress’ job to pass the budget, not some commission. It took centuries of struggle for the power of the purse to be under the people’s control through elected representatives. Now, because few have the guts to say “no” to spending we are supposed to surrender this liberty?

AshleyTKing on January 26, 2010 at 10:18 PM

One effect of Barack Obama’s intention to freeze a small portion of federal spending has become apparent — conservatives have mixed emotions on how to approach it.

You know who is going to be the beasts of burden. It sure won’t be entitlement programs.

BDU-33 on January 26, 2010 at 10:33 PM

Make no decision on this one before you learn what is on the table. If it’s a good start treat it as such. If it’s totally bogus, declare it as such.

I hope the “see him and raise him another cut” approach is available.

{^_^}

herself on January 27, 2010 at 1:56 AM

The move will be viewed for what it is by the public, a gimmick. A lot of times these moves are viewed positively by voters, when they sense it’s a signal for future decisions. In this case, however, he really won’t get that benefit of the doubt. He’s also floating Stimulus II around, so I think voters will see it nothing more than a political bone to calm down the independents.

AnninCA on January 27, 2010 at 8:45 AM

Since Obama is shelling another fraud, give it the cold shoulder. It is NOT a spending freeze, so don’t lend his false effort any credence by recognizing it on his false terms.

FOCUS ON CUTTING TAXES! Freeze bureaucracy while cutting it, eliminating fraud and eliminating redundancy duplicating failure.

maverick muse on January 27, 2010 at 9:25 AM

Republicans should applaud the direction and offer an amendment that actually accomplishes something and pulls the plug on all unspent stimulus funds.

House members might be forced to join in this election year.

EconomicNeocon on January 27, 2010 at 11:39 AM

I’d want to see the exact terms, and how it fits into the big picture before reaching a conclusion.

Considering his reactions in the last few days, I’m inclined to agree it is more populism, and a trap. Once you lose people’s trust, you don’t get it back this easy.

jodetoad on January 27, 2010 at 12:05 PM

Put me in the catagory of, “HELL NO”. The man is a fraud and is not to be trusted.

Winebabe on January 27, 2010 at 12:33 PM

Be kinda like getting behind a manure spreader wouldn’t it?

countrybumpkin on January 27, 2010 at 12:34 PM

It’s a fraud!

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.

He’s done no such thing. To accept Obama’s latest bit of gratuitous demagoguery as a real concession weakens our position. Reject! Demand real change.

modifiedcontent on January 27, 2010 at 12:39 PM

I’d want to see the exact terms, and how it fits into the big picture before reaching a conclusion.

It’s a political trap. Republicans will be suckered into unpopular or politically damaging cuts, like the bipartisan tax commission. It’s a setup for Alinsky rule “make the enemy live up to its own book of rules”.

modifiedcontent on January 27, 2010 at 12:46 PM

Should conservatives get behind Obama’s spending freeze?

It should be a cap, not a freeze. Obama wants to lock in last years budget increases. Think about it.

percysunshine on January 27, 2010 at 1:07 PM

This is a head fake Obama learned from basketball. It got the GOP to jump and try to block a shot? Not so much.

seven on January 27, 2010 at 1:27 PM

This is NOT a spending freeze, this is a bunch of horse manure, disguised as a horse. This so-called spending freeze would LOCK-IN a 20% spending hike over 2008 as PERMANENT. Don’t let these insidious lying Democrats get away with it, it’s all smoke and mirrors.

UNREPENTANT CONSERVATIVE CAPITOLIST on January 27, 2010 at 2:41 PM

Comment pages: 1 2 3