To borrow a phrase from Glenn Reynolds, they told me if I voted for John McCain, we’d get budget gimmicks like spending freezes — and they were right! Barack Obama used to deride McCain’s call for spending freezes during the campaign, and Naked Emperor News has a short video reminder at Breitbart:
The Washington Post puts this in perspective:
Under mounting pressure to rein in mammoth budget deficits, President Obama will propose in his State of the Union address a three-year freeze on federal funding that is not related to national security, a concession to public concern about government spending that could dramatically curtail Obama’s legislative ambitions.
The freeze would take effect in October and limit the overall budget for agencies other than the military, veterans affairs, homeland security and certain international programs to $447 billion a year for the remainder of Obama’s first term, senior administration officials said Monday, imposing sharp limits on his ability to begin initiatives in education, the environment and other areas of domestic policy.
Although the freeze would shave no more than $15 billion off next year’s budget — barely denting a deficit projected to exceed $1 trillion for the third year in a row — White House officials said it could save significantly more during the next decade. They described the freeze as a critical component of a broader deficit-reduction campaign intended to restore confidence in Obama’s ability to control the excesses of Washington and the most lavish aspirations of his own administration.
“You can’t afford to do everything that you might have always wanted to do. That’s the decision-making process that the president and the economic team went through,” said a senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe the speech the president will deliver on Wednesday night. “We’re not here to tell you that we’ve solved the deficit. But you have to take steps to control spending.”
But as Ed Whelan notes:
Only the reader who makes it to the carryover page will learn that the freeze would not apply to “entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid,” “would not restrain funding for the $787 billion economic stimulus package Obama pushed through Congress early last year,” would not “apply to a new bill aimed at creating jobs,” and would be “unlikely to affect the approximately $900 billion health-care bill.”
The problem has gone far beyond a freeze. One look at the base number frozen will inform anyone familiar with the budget that this is nothing but window dressing. Obama proposes to freeze around $450 billion of the federal budget — a budget that is over $3.6 trillion for fiscal year 2010. He’s freezing less than 13% of federal spending.
Let’s also have a little history lesson. When George W. Bush and a Republican Congress issued their final budget, FY2007, the federal government spent $2.72 trillion. Democrats took control of Congress and issued their own budget for FY2008 and negotiated it with Bush for his signature, spending $2.98 trillion. Democrats didn’t bother to negotiate the FY09 budget with Bush, instead issuing continuing resolutions for spending and delivering a final budget of over $3.1 trillion.
The FY 2010 budget represents an increase over that ’09 budget of more than the amount that Obama proposes to freeze, and the frozen portion amounts to less than half of what the Democrats have added to the federal budget since taking over Congress. That’s not fiscal discipline — it’s simply spending exhaustion. The budget needs cutting, paring discretionary spending back to ’07 levels just to start, and finding ways to reform entitlements instead of expanding them beyond all measure.
This freeze is nothing more than a political shell game. Democrats increased spending by $900 billion over three years, and now they plan to freeze 13% of a budget while leaving massive loopholes for more social engineering that has utterly failed in 2009, while taking credit for being fiscally responsible. It’s laughably transparent, but not in the good sense.