I reject the critique from the left on the so-called budget freeze. Frankly, I agree with the Republicans that it's too modest to have any economic effect as fiscal policy. But it should have some modest symbolic effect. It is the most controllable part of the budget, so it is appropriate to try to limit overall spending in that category as a first step in reigning in the deficit. As long as it isn't a line by line freeze, it seems like a good, and frankly necessary, step. It's really not a freeze, it's a cap. But I guess freeze polls better.
My favorite moment was the following:
At the beginning of the last decade, the year 2000, America had a budget surplus of over $200 billion. By the time I took office, we had a one-year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts, and an expensive prescription drug program. On top of that, the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion hole in our budget. All this was before I walked in the door.Now the Republicans and their sympathizers in the media have howled over this. "He's got to stop blaming Bush!" "It was a campaign speech!" Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ) called it "whining" on NPR this morning.
Baloney! We need more of this.
The Republican game is clear. At its most simplistic, they are trying to avoid taking responsibility for mess we're in. But their plan is even more insidious and sometimes seems to be working. Some in the media seem to be buying their scam. Here's how it goes:
Make it inappropriate for Democrats or the President to assign any responsibility for the country's problems to Bush or the Republicans. Call it partisan, or whining or unbecoming of the president. Get the conventional wisdom spouters in Washington to flag this and tut tut every time some Democrat mentions Bush. Thereby, they separate Bush and the Republicans from economic mess they created.
Hang every problem we have on Obama. Blame the situation on his policies, both those he has enacted, like the Recovery Program, and those they've succeeding in blocking, like healthcare (so far), climate change, banking regulation, etc. Make the Obama agenda into a status quo that has failed. This, despite the fact that every respectable economist has confirmed that the "stimulus plan" actually worked. If anything, it was too small. State that, after a year in office, the fact that Obama has only ended the recession and not brought about full employment is proof that his policies are an utter failure.
Propose the same policies that created the economic collapse, tax cuts for business and the wealthy and deregulation of every sector of the economy. Since these proposals are different from the "failed Obama program" and accountability for Bush and the Republicans have been banished from the debate, they are presented as something new. Republicans then become the party of change.
Viola, black is white, up is down. And the Republicans are back in charge accelerating our decline as a country.