Obama to Propose Budget Freeze and Earmark Ban

ABC reports that President Obama will propose a budget freeze and ban on earmarks in his State of the Union Address tonight. The theme of the speech ,“How We Win the Future”, stresses innovation, education and infrastructure. (Note: link is safe to click on, there's no automatic video that plays, hopefully ABC is learning.)

Is Obama going to discuss anything besides the economy tonight? I hope so. BTD - Conceptually, the President's proposal has a lot in common with the Tea Party Caucus's ideas. What seems clear is that no one seems willing to step on the Third Rail of touching Social Security and Medicare and thus "austerity" will fall on the rest of the budget for the time being.

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    I wish Obama would propose... (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by Dadler on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 12:20:00 PM EST
    ...that we stop proposing things that are really not worth the time it takes to propose them.

    Can you imagine a President of the U.S. talking directly to the wealthy of this country, those of you making half a million or more, whatever, and saying "Please, stop your whining, stop your complaining, no amount of slightly increased taxes is going to keep you from being wealthy, but you cannot horde and horde and horde while the rest of the nation is begging for crumbs.  I don't want to stop people from being able to work hard, and innovate, and invent, and do whatever else they do to earn a reward for themselves, I simply want the rules of the economic game to be fair and equitable and not the entirely rigged casino game they have been.  The American people should not have to play that game with a deflated ball, while those on the inside, who have rigged the game, have all the best equipment and get to win almost every game as a result. Fair and equitable rules that are enforced for everyone. The average American gets nickel and dimed by the government because those with more nickels and dimes can bribe the referees.  No more."

    I can imagine it I suppose, I just can't envision it as reality. And in supposedly free and great American, that's saying something.

    With this president? It will never happen (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by shoephone on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 12:36:14 PM EST
    He gave the rich their indefensible tax cut. He is who he is.

    Nah, the Speech is Irrelvent (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by Dan the Man on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 01:27:45 PM EST
    The Speech is written by Obama's Speech writers, not his policy advisors.  The Speech Writers are writing the Speech based on the Post Partisan Unity narrative - probably this was what they were told to do.  But after the Speech, Obama's gonna ignore it and do what he wants.

    As for all these budget freeze proposals - it's not gonna happen.  I expect the budget deficit will rise due to tax cuts for the rich and increased spending for popular programs.

    also (none / 0) (#1)
    by CST on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 12:05:58 PM EST
    part of the plan -

    "Obama will also call for lawmakers to back a five-year plan put forth by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to save $78 billion in defense spending."


    Waiting to hear cries from the right about that.  One reason I'm glad Sec. Gates is still there, I think it will be a little harder for them to take him on than if it were someone else.

    The "freeze" as a strategic move (none / 0) (#9)
    by christinep on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 12:43:16 PM EST
    As a federal retiree, my first thought--I confess--was how any "freeze" affected me. The old pocketbook theory of political economics. Then, I started thinking about "freeze" versus "cuts" (in the Republican talking-points set of cuts that would amount from 20 to 30 percent this year), and I recalled the technique of "stealing the center." That is, if you know going in that the other guy (read: Repubs) has the ability to coin the terms today that would define economic "responsibility" as unbelievable domestic cuts, strike first with the definition of shared sacrifice and economic responsibility as amounting to staying in overall $$$ place the next few years.

    IMO, the key to some sense of across-the-board $$$ management is the Defense Dept. It helps balance things, as it were, without the harsh domestic consequences of a budget balanced solely on the backs of the domestic agencies.


    How ironic. Remember that (none / 0) (#2)
    by observed on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 12:13:58 PM EST
    commie-fighting President who instituted a wage and price freeze about 40 years ago?
    Now we have a supposedly "red" President who could pass for a Bircher in his proposals.

    Hmm (none / 0) (#4)
    by lilburro on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 12:20:19 PM EST
    I know there is money sitting around that could be used more effectively for economic stimulus and for help with predatory lending/foreclosures.  I guess I'll wait for the speech...singling out earmarks is dumb though IMO.

    Yep (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by jbindc on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 12:24:20 PM EST
    Earmarks are how members of Congress get re-elected.

    Ain't gonna happen.


    Told ya so (5.00 / 1) (#36)
    by jbindc on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 06:04:03 PM EST
    earmarks do not always (none / 0) (#38)
    by sj on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 12:09:11 AM EST
    equal waste.  They bring jobs.

    True (none / 0) (#39)
    by jbindc on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 08:08:21 AM EST
    BTD - not the same (none / 0) (#6)
    by CST on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 12:26:42 PM EST
    The biggest difference is where the "freeze" takes place.  The Tea Party plan is 2006 federal spending level, before the economy tanked, pre-stimulus, etc...

    The president's proposal, as I understand it, is a freeze at 2010 levels, which should include Stimulus funding, I think.  Honestly, if that's the case, it's not as bad as I thought it would be.

    That being said, this is the starting point... And we all have seen how this bargaining game works by now.

    "Conceptually" (none / 0) (#7)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 12:32:52 PM EST
    they are the same.

    honestly (none / 0) (#13)
    by CST on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 01:19:54 PM EST
    it's not bad "framing".

    Practically, you are continuing the Stimulus spending into the next five years.  That's more than I thought we would get before the deficit hawks won the last election.

    I expect the GOP to flip out accordingly though.  Esp. combined with defense spending cuts.


    Many Tea Partiers (none / 0) (#18)
    by jbindc on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 01:46:20 PM EST
    Like defense cuts:

    WASHINGTON - Back home, tea partiers clamoring for the debt-ridden government to slash spending say nothing should be off limits. Tea party-backed lawmakers echo that argument, and they're not exempting the military's multibillion-dollar budget in a time of war.

    Tea party groups say if the government is going to cut spending, the military budget needs to be part of the mix.

    That demand is creating hard choices for the newest members of Congress, especially Republicans who owe their elections and solid House majority to the influential grass-roots movement. Cutting defense and canceling weapons could mean deep spending reductions and high marks from tea partiers as the nation wrestles with a $1.3 trillion deficit.

    Yet it also could jeopardize thousands of jobs when unemployment is running high. Proponents of the cuts also could face criticism that they're trying to weaken national security in a post-Sept. 11 world.

    House Republican leaders specifically exempted defense, homeland security and veterans' programs from spending cuts in their party's "Pledge to America" campaign manifesto last fall. But the House's new majority leader, Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., has said defense programs could join others on the cutting board.

    The defense budget is about $700 billion annually. Few in Congress have been willing to make cuts as U.S. troops fight in Afghanistan and finish the operation in Iraq.

    Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in a recent pre-emptive move, proposed $78 billion in spending cuts and an additional $100 billion in cost-saving moves. While that amounts to $13 billion less than the Pentagon wanted to spend in the coming year, it still stands as 3 percent growth after inflation is taken into account.

    That's why tea party groups say if the government is going to cut spending, the military's budget needs to be part of the mix.

    "The widely held sentiment among Tea Party Patriot members is that every item in the budget, including military spending and foreign aid, must be on the table," said Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots. "It is time to get serious about preserving the country for our posterity. The mentality that certain programs are 'off the table' must be taken off the table."

    I'd like to see the figures (none / 0) (#24)
    by BackFromOhio on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 02:49:13 PM EST
    for how much the armed forces -- those on Fed payroll actually costs vs. how much has been spent on outsourcing armed forces roles to expensive contractors with no bid contracts.  We probably could give across the board $10,000/year pay raises to armed services, hire more, and still come out ahead of what we have been spending.

    Sure (none / 0) (#28)
    by jbindc on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 03:07:51 PM EST
    But I think their point is not about the Blackwater contractor-types necessarily, but the tens of thousands of civilian workers employed at places like Lockheed Martin, SAIC, and Northrupp-Grumman.  Those are mostly high paying white collar jobs attached to real people with real mortgages, real families, and paying real taxes.  

    Why do you think states like Michigan (with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country) or Virginia (where 1 in 5 jobs is related to defense spending and that spending makes up about 1/3 of the entire state economy) are fighting defense cuts tooth and nail?


    I don't know (none / 0) (#21)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 02:26:52 PM EST
    but I like that no one is discussing Social Security and Medicare.

    To CST: Speaking to my old fed ees friends, (none / 0) (#10)
    by christinep on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 12:47:05 PM EST
    you got it!

    What are the chances that (none / 0) (#15)
    by Anne on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 01:28:49 PM EST
    the proposal stays tied to 2010 levels?  I'm thinking, off the top of my head, not great.  Not only will he be accused, right out of the gate, of not being serious about spending cuts, but I don't think that earmark ban is going anywhere, either.

    These seem like talking points that will end up in some campaign commercial.

    What does that leave us looking at?

    The "tough choices," I think.


    I conceded as much (none / 0) (#17)
    by CST on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 01:43:08 PM EST
    But if you are going to judge this plan on it's merits, rather than on it's likelihood of being what we end up with, I'd have to say this is not bad.  Esp. combined with defense cuts.

    The problem is, this is where it would be nice to end, not start.


    I think the better place to end would be (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by Anne on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 02:23:55 PM EST
    to stop feeding the debt and deficit hysteria; I truly do not understand why we want to freeze the budget at all.  I mean, other than because Obama appears to have a full-blown case of D & D Hysteria Flu - has he done no examination of the austerity budgeting that has been done in Ireland, England and Greece?  Have his financial and economic advisors actually sold him on the idea that budget freezes and spending cuts will work to increase the demand the economy needs in order to start creating jobs?

    And why do I get the feeling that while he's proposing a freeze on discretionary spending, it won't take long for the discussion to include - or veer off to - non-discretionary spending?

    There's a reason why Democrats used to oppose this kind of fiscal and budgetary policy, and I don't think it's because we were wrong about it; I don't think we are likely to be able to stop what's happening now that there is much more philosophical agreement than I can ever remember - and what is being agreed upon is - in my opinion, anyway - just crazy.


    The idea with the Stimulus (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by CST on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 02:30:21 PM EST
    is that we needed to ramp up spending to get out of the recession.  This spending "freeze" is a freeze of that ramped up spending.  That's an entirely different thing than what was done in Ireland, England, and Greece - all of which CUT spending drastically.

    The original Stimulus bill had most of that "ramped up" spending ending by 2010.  This proposal will extend that for 5 years.  Basically saying that we need to keep that level of increased government spending to get us out of the recession for the next 5 years.


    I am not seeing that explanation (none / 0) (#26)
    by Anne on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 02:52:19 PM EST
    anywhere, CST, but even if I were, the response from the GOP is - surprise! - that it's not enough to hold the line at 2010 levels - and thus will begin the cutting and the move to a more austere approach to fiscal policy.

    But, whatever - I still don't understand why we're being swept up in this totally manufactured hysteria.  And because it's manufactured, I think one has to seriously question why it's being manufactured - what's the real end game?

    And it all comes back, I think, to the Norquist School - and it irks me no end to see a so-called Democrat buying in to this way of thinking - and other Dems just going along with it.


    it's framing (none / 0) (#29)
    by CST on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 03:12:03 PM EST
    I'm not saying it will work, the GOP certainly won't buy it, that's why they are screaming already, but the public might.

    And, that is what it is at this stage (none / 0) (#30)
    by christinep on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 04:21:04 PM EST
    Appealing to the public. In that sense, the drama is normal for the high-stakes, attention-center speech. It may seem silly & manufactured; but, the reality is that while the President has the powerful podium--and full attention of everyone tonight--he can't simply say "I don't play...I won't talk about spending & deficits because my own self disagrees with writers, pundits, & a somewhat significant number of Americans who have concerns about how far we can go in the $$ spending sense." While I personally believe we can and should go much farther in spending to meet the vision of competitiveness & jobs, he still has to show an acceptable attempt to address the issue...AND THEN pivot into the "investment" push for jobs, education & transportation renewal, etc. If he doesn't somehow address & dispense with the hyped deficit matter, the pivot part will be missed.

    I definitely think, as you suggest, CST, that the speech affords an opportunity to shift the Republican generated emphasis off deep cuts by combining the real and symbolic symbolism of a "freeze" with the investment thrust. He must have hit a nerve because the Repubs have been scrambling all day to get the microphone.


    Anne (none / 0) (#23)
    by CoralGables on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 02:40:17 PM EST
    Your opening line sounds like it came straight out of the Reagan and G. W. Bush White House. Deficits don't matter right?

    No, they really don't... (5.00 / 2) (#27)
    by Anne on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 02:57:36 PM EST
    but the difference between Dems and Republicans - or at least this used to be the case - is that Republicans only believe in deficits when they can use them to attack social and other spending that benefits those who have the least; try to attack the fat cats' wallets, and suddenly, deficits don't matter.

    Dems are beginning to sing from the same songbook and it's both depressing and demoralizing to be witness to it.


    Anne (none / 0) (#37)
    by Politalkix on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 07:25:58 PM EST
    believes in an expanding universe theory of spending.

    Budget Freeze & Earmark Ban.... (none / 0) (#11)
    by kdog on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 01:10:05 PM EST
    Anybody know what happened to the budget scalpel Obama touted when he was campaigning? Ya know, the alternative to McCain's budget axe?

    Across the board freeze seems like a lazy cop out...what we need is total elimination of some programs/agencies, steep cuts to some others, some freezing, and spending increases in a select few.  Though I guess that would take leadership and will...

    Sounds good, kdog...but (none / 0) (#16)
    by christinep on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 01:32:29 PM EST
    noone can agree on what "worthless" (ha) area should be cut. Since the process requires some form of agreement, the timetable lends itself to a broader swathe of the budget. For example: If the area you favor is in disfavor with the majority of Congress (and, by extension, the majority of the American public) you'll be hurting a lot more than if a broader distribution cut is applied. Again, the inclusion of DOD will help prevent a Draconian axe.

    Point taken... (none / 0) (#19)
    by kdog on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 01:46:34 PM EST
    but I think you confuse the wishes of Congress with the wishes of the American people.

    I know, on paper/in theory, they are our representation...but in practice?  Not even close.


    No matter what we believe (none / 0) (#31)
    by christinep on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 04:58:29 PM EST
    when you come right down to it, Pogo hit it: We have met the enemy, and they is us.  What I'm trying to say is that sometimes each of us must wonder how some voters could be so stupid. But, as John S Mill wrote, there are drawbacks to a democratic form of government when the body politic goes on a binge. My feeling is that we cannot separate ourselves from our government no matter how hard we might want to at times...the collective "we" voted them in, and we can vote them out and someone else in.

    But, as you may know, I am always an optimist about "we the people." It seems haywire at times...worse even than a large dysfunctional family.... Don't give up on it.


    We are responsible... (none / 0) (#32)
    by kdog on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 05:19:18 PM EST
    no doubt about that, I don't know if it is stupidity or apathy or a rigged two party game everybody is desperate to believe results in representation.

    I ain't got any better ideas than voting for some Jimmy McMillan's or Ralph's or any old monkey wrench will do...so I'm with ya on representative democracy, a strictly limited one...crazy limited:)  


    A budget freeze (none / 0) (#12)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 01:15:09 PM EST

    A budget freeze at the current roughly 25% of GDP is a post war record.  Not much of a hard choice there.

    I will (none / 0) (#25)
    by lentinel on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 02:51:54 PM EST
    be listening for some mention about the war in Afghanistan.

    While I am aware of the daily devastation being inflicted on that country and its people, as well as the devastation being inflicted on our soldiers - many of whom are committing suicide - I can not muster much enthusiasm for talk about infrastructure.

    I know how it felt here when the tragedy of Arizona hit us.
    This is what is occurring every single day over there.
    How can we continue to ignore it?

    And then there is the pragmatic fact that the war is costing us over two billion dollars a week - with no end in sight - and totally without coherent purpose.

    So I hope, faintly, that he will mention the wars and tell us that he has begun to end them and will withdraw our troops - now.

    I will not be content with another empty salute to the brave men and women in uniform.

    Deja Vu hooey (none / 0) (#33)
    by BTAL on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 05:33:22 PM EST
    In last year's SOTU, he called for a 3 year spending freeze yet submitted a budget that included $70B in new spending. Link

    Yogi Berra would be proud.

    I feel hope now! (none / 0) (#34)
    by observed on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 05:48:18 PM EST
    Don't get your "HOPE"s up too high (none / 0) (#35)
    by BTAL on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 05:51:05 PM EST
    Last year he had a Dem controlled House.