I'm having a hard time getting my hands around President Obama's expected call for a domestic spending freeze in response to the populist surge that ended the Democrats' Senate super-majority and threatens to cut deeply into their absolute majority come October. (He will make his case in tonight's State of the Union address).
Everybody agrees that runaway federal spending is a long term problem. But how, exactly, is a three-year freeze in discretionary spending, exempting big entitlement programs like Medicare and all foreign policy and defense spending, going to solve the problem?
Spending is out of control because of two wars that have gone on for years and one that will probably go on for many more. It's out of control because we cut taxes as we waged those wars (obviously, memory of the tax increases and “war bonds drives” that helped finance World War II faded out long ago). And spending is out of control because of the incomprehensibly big financial bailout packages that may have saved the nation from another Great Depression, and that may be necessary again.
I'm not saying it's not worth breaking the bank for these things, and I'm certainly not saying trillion-dollar deficits are good; I am saying that this business of a blanket freeze on a small portion of the budget smacks of band-aid politics by an administration that is bleeding badly.
I'm waiting for some Jewish group to to step up and say it – and the corollary that if we want our government to project US power around the world to serve our national interests, maintain an extensive network of health and social services and pay regulators to protect our savings from the risk-loving profiteers who run so many of our financial institutions, we have to be ready to pay in the form of higher taxes.
I'm guessing I'll have a long, long wait.
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