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  Cup o' Joel  

Barack Obama, the Tea Party right and the spending freeze: So we didn’t need the stimulus after all?

I’m not certain, but I think that Barack Obama is about to surrender to the Tea Party right with his spending freeze on domestic spending. Why? Because it tells the voters that the big huge stimulus package passed at the outset of his presidency was unnecessary — and that the Tea Partiers are thus right to accuse the president of blind, wasteful big-government spending.

Why do I say this? Well, let’s go to the Daily Beast’s roundup of liberal reaction to the freeze:

President Obama’s next attempt to win over centrists—he is expected to call for a freeze on non-security discretionary spending on Wednesday night—has some experts balking. Brad DeLong calls the president “Barack Herbert Hoover Obama” and points out that, in 2011, Obama’s plan will lower GDP by $35 billion and cost the economy 350,000 jobs. Robert Reich writes, “A pending freeze will make it even harder to get jobs back because government is the last spender around.” Nate Silver, meanwhile, calls it “a mistake on par with John McCain’s ‘suspending my campaign’ gaffe,” saying, “In the medium run, it’s most likely effect is to confuse voters, and in the long run, it’ll probably either be forgotten about or become Another Broken Promise.”

The stimulus package was never about spending all the money that could be spent for the pure hell of it. The idea was that government would try to slow the death spiral by pumping cash back into the economy through tax cuts that individual could use to buy stuff, and through programs and infrastructure projects that would either keep people employed or create a few new jobs. A year later, the economy’s still not in great shape, but you could argue — and you’d be right — that we’d be worse off without it.

By announcing the domestic spending freeze while the economy is still in soft shape — and while finding a job is still a painful process for most folks — the president loses the ability to make that argument. If DeLong is right about the ramifications of the freeze, Obama is essentially saying it’s more important to restrain federal spending than it is to keep putting people back to work. That’s a surrender to the Tea Party right, an undercutting of the rationale for one of the biggest agenda items of his presidency.

I said yesterday it appeared that the president was unwilling to fight for his own agenda; it looks as though he’s not even willing to fight for his own accomplishments, the stuff he’s actually done. So why should any of his supporters?

  1. Monkey Brad Says: Jan 26 11:43 AM

    Speaking of the Tea Party folks, can I assume that the new number on the deficit – three times what Bush was offering – gives them a little more credibility than you were recognizing previously? It’s one thing to not oppose a half-trillion dollar deficit. It’s something else to be expected to be “consistent” by not opposing a 1.5 trillion dollar deficit.

  2. brendancalling Says: Jan 26 11:44 AM

    sad isn’t it?

    he’s unwilling to fight for much of anything it seems. i find myself wondering why he wanted to be president to begin with.

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