26 January 2010

Spending Freeze

During his State of the Union address tomorrow night, President Obama is expected to propose a three-year spending freeze for several domestic programs that account for approximately 17% of the overall national budget (or about $450 billion dollars in spending). According to the Wall Street Journal:
To attack the $1.4 trillion deficit, the White House will propose limits on discretionary spending unrelated to the military, veterans, homeland security and international affairs, according to senior administration officials. Also untouched are big entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
This is where I part ways with most of my compatriots on the left. If we are serious about bring our national budget into balance, if we are serious about not saddling our children with crippling debt, then Social Security and Medicare have to be tamed in a big way. With the Baby Boomers entering retirement age, the cost of those programs is expected to sky rocket over the next fifteen years. The programs should not be scrapped, but their costs need to come down drastically.

The President has said he is serious about reforming entitlement programs. This budget freeze doesn't reflect that. I am assuming he held off because of the recession. Only time will tell. But once we crawl out from under this mess, I fully expect Mr. Obama to make some painful choices regarding the two programs.

Some on the left are appalled by the proposed spending freeze. While I agree with their assessment that the only way to tame the Great Recession is to increase federal outlays in targeted areas so as to turn things around, I also believe in my heart of hearts that our economy will take longer to recover if there isn't at least a small effort to reduce the deficit. And quite frankly, even if he wanted to increase spending, the President has no choice here politically.

In the mean time, while I wait to hear exactly where the freezes will be made...kudos to the President and his team for doing something George W. Bush and his enablers in the Republican-led congresses of his presidency didn't even try to do. Those guys spent more than any liberal Democrat could ever think of spending, raising deficits to record levels, which helped lead us to the morass we find ourselves in today.

While there is still a long way to go, President Obama, with the announcement of this plan, once again proves why having a Democrat in the White House leads to a more fiscally responsible government (see Kennedy, John and Clinton, Bill).