Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I Opposed Spending Freezes Before I Supported Them...

John McCain President Obama is apparently now for spending freezes after spending a good chunk of one Presidential debate telling us that McCain's proposal for a spending freeze was a foolish idea. I can see Obama standing over the operating table putting down his surgical scalpel and asking the nurse for a hatchet.

But to be fair, for a spending freeze, he's letting a lot slip through the cracks like the stimulus bill and the new job bill he's floating. I still have to ask some nagging questions: Why is a spending freeze good now when it was a bad idea during the campaign? If job creation is so important, why weren't we doing anything about it until now? And if the already-passed stimulus bill was so helpful, why are we adding a job creation bill on top of it? Wasn't that the point of the stimulus bill? And is it just me or did all the stuff that was going to happen if we didn't pass the original stimulus bill happen anyway?


Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Why is a spending freeze good now when it was a bad idea during the campaign?

Maybe because, right now our economy is not on the verge of panic and utter fiscal collapse.

I know the flip-flopper narrative is a strong one, and it is useful for scoring quick political points in our sound-byte driven, 24-hour news cycle, Twitter-based politics of this day and age.

Unfortunately reality requires a longer term viewpoint.

Dante said...

From the first debate:
MCCAIN: How about a spending freeze on everything but defense, veteran affairs and entitlement programs.

LEHRER: Spending freeze?

MCCAIN: I think we ought to seriously consider with the exceptions the caring of veterans national defense and several other vital issues.

LEHRER: Would you go for that?

OBAMA: 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 under funded. I went to increase early childhood education and the notion that we should freeze that when there may be, for example, this Medicare subsidy doesn't make sense.

Let me tell you another place to look for some savings. We are currently spending $10 billion a month in Iraq when they have a $79 billion surplus. It seems to me that if we're going to be strong at home as well as strong abroad, that we have to look at bringing that war to a close.

From the second debate:
Obama: "I disagree with Sen. McCain about an across-the- board freeze.

That's an example of an unfair burden sharing. That's using a hatchet to cut the federal budget.

I want to use a scalpel so that people who need help are getting help and those of us, like myself and Sen. McCain, who don't need help, aren't getting it.

That's how we make sure that everybody is willing to make a few sacrifices."

Doesn't sound like Obama was opposed to an outright freeze based on our then-current economic conditions. It sounds to me like he thought that a freeze was just the wrong way to go about cutting spending due to the inequitable nature of cuts resulting from a freeze. That is going to be the same despite our economic condition.

Obama will get a chance to explain the change in stance in the State of the Union but he better take the opportunity to explain the change in stance or he'll get hammered on it. I'm sure this will be framed for quick political points but this is a fundamental change in stance on an important issue. And I have to admit the timing makes it look an awful lot like a knee-jerk reaction to a certain Senate election...

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

That's right. But again, the Federal Budget is at a very different place today than where it was back then.

And, yes, if this is just some knee-jerk reaction to the Senate election, that would lead to a hammering.

I can only imagine the same "flip-flop" meme would have been brought to bear against President McCain when he had said in the debates he'd institute a spending freeze and would then sign TARP and the stimulus bill into law...

But I'd rather excuse a President Obama or a theoretical McCain for changing direction on fiscal issues during a fiscal crisis.

Keep in mind that it took years and a series of incredible catastrophes for the last "stay the course" administration to make significant changes. All because they feared the "flip-flopper" badge.