Defending the Obama Spending Freeze from the Left and the Right

Neither conservative nor liberal criticisms make a lot of sense.

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By John A. Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Since I suggested a couple of weeks back that Team Audacity get back in the game with a program of tax cuts and an across-the-board cut in spending, I am somewhat surprised not to be sitting in the first lady's box for the State of the Union speech. No doubt the invitation got lost in the bureaucracy.

Nevertheless, having made this suggestion, I feel compelled to defend it. It is under attack from Left and Right.

First the Right: My good friend Peter here at Thomas Jefferson St. assaults the White House call for a freeze on discretionary spending as not credible. He has a point, in that the overall record of congressional restraint--in Republican and Democratic administrations--is not good. Thus was it ever, as the late Pat Moynihan would say. But that doesn't mean that it won't happen. I am sure the same could have been said of Bill Clinton before (having been confronted with the massive deficits of the Bush-Reagan years) he raised taxes and (in the forced company of Newt Gingrich) cut spending in the Nineties. Voila! A balanced budget.

Like the snakehead says, what didn't you like about the Nineties, the peace or the prosperity?

And don't tell me that a Republican Congress would do any better than this one. Obama and Pelosi are spending like sailors to try and keep cash flowing until the worldwide economic correction is over. At least Obama has a good reason to borrow and spend--he's got some real Keynesian pump priming to do.

At least Reagan had the Cold War to win. But the George W. Bush-Denny Hastert-Tom Delay crowd inherited good times and a budget surplus and plunged us deep into debt by cutting taxes on the wealthy and boosting pork barrel spending (and entitlements) purely to get re-elected. It was the GOP that did away with pay-go. And who can forget the Bridge to Nowhere? Ring a bell, Tea Partiers? Or do you only object to Democratic waste? And am I the only one, when folks on the Right start whining about Ben Nelson, who remembers the tactics that Hastert and Delay used to push one of the biggest expansions of government spending--the Medicare prescription drug bill--through the House?

Now to the Left: Just when did "Spend more!" become the cure-all for everything that ails us? Who says the federal government has to schedule and direct every moment of our lives? Yeah, a healthy dose of new federal power was necessary in the Sixties, when the states didn't have the resources or, in the case of the South, the willingness to address pressing national problems. But guys and gals, that was a half century ago. When did we forget FDR's warnings about the addictive nature of government power, the dependency it can breed, and the need to experiment, and not be slave to dogma?

Then there is this liberal objection: across-the-board cuts and freezes are a childish way of balancing budgets. Okay, liberal elitists. You all went to Brown or Harvard. Name me a time in American history when good politics required sophistication. If we all stayed home on the Monday before Election Day, to read and study the candidates' positions on the issues, and then voted at a 90 percent turnout rate then, sure, I'd be with you on this. But the fact is that Americans are dumb, and vote for dumb reasons. Thus was it ever. It's why it's a Republic, not a Democracy. If a gimmick can get Obama where he needs to go while we all wait to get rich again, I'm all for it, and liberal Democrats should embrace it like Kate grabbed that plank in the icy seas, at the end of Titanic. Or would you rather be Leo, icy blue and plunging toward the depths?

Cut some taxes. Cut some spending. Win now. Fix later. Then coast to re-election when it's morning in America.

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