Progressives have jumped the gun on the freeze proposal.
It still may be lousy politics, but it’s cosmetic economics. Not only entitlements but stimulus spending, a new jobs bill, and health reform (stipulating that that would cost money rather than saving it) will, per an official leak to the Washington Post, be exempt. Jared Bernstein, in his interview with Rachel Maddow, said the same. Alongside some unhelpful talking points, Bernstein did say unequivocally “There’s a bunch of emergency spending that’s outside of this freeze,” more specifically “the recovery act” and “new jobs initiatives that the President will be outlining in the State of the Union.” Obama may not get the jobs bill passed–but that’s a matter of what he fights for and wins in the next weeks and months, not of what he’s proposing now. Let’s not forget either that a spending freeze that exempts entitlements and veteran’s spending means a substantial increase if spending on those programs is going up and those programs represent much, much more of the budget than the discretionary programs.
Finally, as Mark pointed out (and Bernstein confirmed), the proposal is not an across the board freeze but a proposal to cut some programs while pushing others.
Given that the point of the proposal is apparently to trick the bond markets, there’s no great shame in the fact that the rest of us were tricked too, for a few hours. But unless Obama has sent lots of surrogates out to lie about his own proposal–unlikely, since they’d get caught–it’s our fault if we go on repeating that Obama is proposing Hoover/Mellon economics. It’s just not the case.
Obama still may let us down in the SOTU, or in how much or how hard he pushes for health reform–still the main issue before us. But in our zeal not to miss betrayals when they’re present, let’s not imagine them where they’re absent.