News has it that Obama is going to propose a freeze on all "non-military discretionary spending." While we don't know much yet about what that means, the move feels transparently political, and my guess is, it isn't going to be received well.
Keep in mind the following:
- Obama proposed and successfully pushed Congress to pass the Stimulus Bill, which was one of the largest spending bills in the nation's history. There may be very good economics underpinning the Stimulus Bill, but the size of spending is undeniable, and it is one of the things people most associate with President Obama's administration.
- Obama flatly rejected Senator McCain's proposal for a general spending freeze during the campaign. Obama had a good argument as well- better to use a scalpel to control spending than a hatchet. Looks like we are out of scalpels.
- Even though the health care bill proposed by the Senate is projected to actually reduce the deficit, most Americans don't believe those projections. According to Rasmussen Reports, 68% believe the bill would increase the deficit, making it nearly impossible to urge passage of the health care bill without people believing he is violating his promise to freeze spending.
- Obama is now promoting a jobs bill which undoubtedly will also cost a significant amount of money, even if, again, the economics are sound.
There is no escaping the cognitive dissonance Americans are going to feel upon hearing news that President Obama wants to propose a spending freeze. It will take all of .00002 seconds for Republicans to claim a freeze was their idea (and they will be right- it was one of several very bad ideas they offered). Then when he once again pushes for health care reform (which may come as soon as next week), it will take even less time for Republicans to lambast him for "forgetting what he promised just last week." Projections of deficit reduction only matter if you believe the projections.
Obama isn't going to claim the crown of "most fiscally responsible president" anytime soon. Even if he was, in fact, the most fiscally responsible president ever, public perception is not on his side, and in politics, perception equals reality. Why try to claim the title now when there is literally no chance it will succeed and a significant chance it will actually hurt his narrative in trying to pass significant legislation?
This might be a very good policy- we can't possibly know how good or bad it will actually be until we have more details- but it seems to be poor politics at a vulnerable time for Democrats.
Then again, lacking faith in the President's persuasive powers the night before a major address hasn't worked out well for doubters in the past.
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