Obama’s Self-Inflicted Lobotomy Proceeds Apace

If this is true – and right now it is unconfirmed – then there seems little reason to support Obama on anything:

President Obama plans to announce a three-year freeze on discretionary, “non-security” spending in the lead-up Wednesday’s State of the Union address, Hill Democratic sources familiar with the plan tell POLITICO.

The move, intended to blunt the populist backlash against Obama’s $787 billion stimulus and an era of trillion-dollar deficits — and to quell Democratic anxiety over last Tuesday’s Massachusetts Senate election — is projected to save $250 billion, the Democrats said.

The freeze would not apply to defense spending or spending on intelligence, homeland security or veterans.

I’m trying to think of what could possibly be a worse plan.  Let’s see: we might be entering a double-dip recession and unemployment is in double-digits, and you are going to freeze spending?  What in God’s name are they thinking?

Perhaps the worst thing about this is how it cedes the ideological ground to the Republicans.  At some point someone must make an argument for government.  I think it was former Senator Paul Simon Harry S Truman who said: “give the voters a choice between a Republican and a Republican and they will choose a Republican every time.”

What next?  The rotting corpse of Andrew Mellon as Treasury Secretary?  Or do we already have that?

UPDATE:  Seemingly confirmed by the New York Times.  Why exactly did I give money and make calls for this guy in 2008?


  1. MobiusKlein says

    My home city of San Francisco is facing a 100 million dollar budget gap for the next year (or was it two).

    Basically they are looking at cutting teachers, freezing pay, AND forcing days off with no pay. Don't even think about after school programs.

    We're not going to get the money from CA. So now we have 1,000 Hoovers cutting pay and jobs all over the country.

    But somehow, we can't cut defense spending. I'm not voting for or donating to any politician who votes for that, or campaigns to support that policy.

    That may just fracture the (D) caucus to the core.

  2. HG says

    wait a second, when the hell did Schwarzenegger get added to his economic brain-trust?

    And you mean to tell me that spending on Afghan adventures, and hysterically spending on full body scanners because of an underpants bomber, is what I voted for in Nov 2008?

    Well, I guess this train has come off the rails. Count me out.

  3. KLG says

    "Why exactly did I give money and make calls for this guy in 2008?"

    Probably for the same reasons I did. Silly us. We are comprehensively f*cked.

    And I might ask Mark-of-the-RBC: What difference will it really make to "pass the damn bill" if this is going to happen. Talk about rearranging deck chairs on HMS Titanic?

  4. Bux says

    Obama is smart. Survival is the name of the game for all politicians. He knows more government spending is not what the American public wants. So time to call it quits on his "force down your throat" liberal agenda and actually do what it's gonna take to get himself re-elected. Straight out of the old Bill Clinton playbook.

  5. says

    The measure would save $250 billion? That means it will remove $250 billion (plus multipliers) from the economy at a time when unemployment is already at historic highs. Under current conditions, that's probably about 1% off gdp growth, which is to say a loss of $1.5 trillion over the next decade. On top of the losses we're already looking at. Deck chairs on the Titanic indeed.

    The only possible way this might make sense is that by fall the people who are left will be marching on DC in the millions demanding more stimulus…

  6. Bob J says

    >Why exactly did I give money and make calls for [Obama] in 2008?

    Um, because the alternative, under any conceivable circumstances, would surely be far worse?

  7. Warren Terra says

    Very, very bad news. Very disheartening. The advantage of Obama was supposed to be his ability to be intelligent, to put his own framing on things, and to explain them. Kowtowing to inane Republican memes instead is a disaster.

  8. JohnN says

    Yes, the alternative would have been worse, I don't regret voting for him. But what a stupid move this is – it isn't going to cure the budget deficit, it perpetuates the lie that deficits are due to some park ranger in Utah using too much gas or something, and yes, as you say, it cowers before the Rethugs and hopes they will love us more. We're not going to lose the Senate in 2010, mathematically very unlikely, for that matter.

  9. RickD says

    Truman, man!

    "Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time" – Harry S Truman

  10. Alex says

    If there's been a "force down your throat liberal agenda" Bux, why do I feel like I've been ball-gagged by a conservative?

    Oh, and doing what it takes to get elected is stupid right now. When you're not in power, you want to do whatever it takes to get elected so you can do whatever it is you think will make America a better place, but when you're in power, you should actually USE SOME OF IT and not spend the whole time trying to re-elect yourself for the sake of it.

  11. MobiusKlein says

    The hill I'm willing to die on, or cut bait is CO2 reduction.

    In 100 years, the minutia of DADT, Public Option & Cadillac tax will be dust; the only thing that will truly matter is how much C02 is emitted during the next 50 year. If some C02 reduction occurs because of Obama, I'll forgive the rest.

    But viewing Obama's follow through on other matters, I have grave fears about that as well.

  12. says

    Oh, wah. Obama has taken so much misdirected heat it's sickening. Because the big tent democrats can't be corralled this is somehow Obama's fault? It appears the tea party pathology of needing to have complex problems require easy and false scapegoats is catching.

    I'm not sure this is substantively anything more than political posturing. But the last fucking thing it is is acting like a Republican. Have you seen that party lately? At least the Democrats have saved us from financial ruin, staunched the pain with a stimulus (which is paying for my family's healthcare right now via Cobra, Thank you very much), and attempted to put together a largely important bill to reform health care and carbon emissions. The fact that they can't pass them is frustrating – but if maybe ONE or TWO Republicans stepped up we might have something.

    The world isn't perfect and neither are politics. So this isn't a progressive's fantasy – but Jesus, chill out and find yourself a picture of Bush to look at for a while.

  13. says

    "So this isn't a progressive’s fantasy – but Jesus, chill out…"

    The problem is precisely that this is more or less a progressive nightmare. Oh, there's worse, but Obama has officially become the American Tony Blair with this.

  14. Jonathan Zasloff says


    Here's why you're wrong. Obama isn't doing this as a compromise to get something through: that was dropping the public option, and I think that compromise was worth it. This is the worst of all possible worlds. It is terrible policy on the macroeconomic level, because if anything we need another stimulus now. It is terrible policy on the budget level, because while we can all point to federal spending we don't like, what invariably happens is that the most vulnerable populations get hurt. And it is HORRIFIC politics, because it reinforces the right-wing frame that the deficit is the most important thing now and that in order to deal with it we need to cut programs for THOSE people. The Democrats, with 59 seats in the Senate and 256 seats in the House, are running for cover because of a special election result in Massachusetts. And they are being led by the Retreater-in-Chief.

    The fact of the matter is that they CAN pass the health care bill now, simply by getting a Senate reconciliation bill (which cannot be filibustered) and getting the House to pass the basic Senate bill. And everyone is looking to the President for leadership. And he is doing nothing except offering garbage like this. Everyone is looking to him, and he has decided to become Bob Dole. That is simply pathetic.

  15. says

    (which is paying for my family’s healthcare right now via Cobra, Thank you very much)

    Don't count on your COBRA being extended in a few months.

  16. calling all toasters says

    Apparently Obama is doing the Clinton playbook, only he's *intentionally* going to lose both houses of Congress in the midterms, so he can get re-elected as a way to balance Republican power. He can go to hell.

  17. sglover says

    "Obama is smart. Survival is the name of the game for all politicians. He knows more government spending is not what the American public wants. So time to call it quits on his “force down your throat” liberal agenda and actually do what it’s gonna take to get himself re-elected. Straight out of the old Bill Clinton playbook."

    As long as one in five Americans are un- or underemployed, nobody gives a flying fuck, really, about government spending. It's an abstraction, like "family values". And in this case, it's going to do **nothing** to get Obama a second term. His left wing is going to ask, Why should we lift a finger for you? That 20%, sinking into real destitution, is going to see Obama as just another do-nothing Beltway poser. If they bother to vote at all, they're going to start looking for a Hero, and that the Republicans just might provide. We already know that they'll use any lie and ploy available to make the Big Win..

    I was never more than lukeway for the guy when I voted for him, but I'm really stunned at his ineptitude. I can't think of any president in the last century who had such a winning hand, and folded right out of the gate.

  18. sglover says

    "The fact that they can’t pass them is frustrating – but if maybe ONE or TWO Republicans stepped up we might have something."

    Didn't you open your comment with "Oh wah"?!?! Jeez….

    Look, the GOP has been exhibiting genuine party discipline for at least 15-20 years now. The Republicans have played this last year straight from their operating manual. There have been no surprises there. So it's a little disingenuous — that's being **very** charitable — to keep whining about those mean old Republicans. We know how the GOP is going to act. We expect Democratic "leadership" to at least approximate a sentient creature with a spine. This special pleading about Republican ogres insults the intelligence (and is yet another reason to say, Fuck the Dems).

    So we've got two possibilities here:

    1) The Dems are honestly incapable of learning from very well-known, very recent history. And this is why they cannot avoid the most obvious and basic strategic and tactical stupidity.

    2) The Dems really don't give a damn. They're politicians just like their "opposition", and the worst thing they have to worry about is taking a lobbying gig that doesn't come with a corner office.

    Neither of these really inspires me to rally to the Donk.

  19. Lefteris says

    Basically I'm an observer and politically in the middle. I lived in Europe for 30 years before I came to the U.S. I was fully employed in Europe (most years self-employed) and in the insurance field. Trying to sell more life insurance although the hottest item in Europe was and is "hospital coverage insurance". For good reason :-) most public hospitals suck (Americans know about Europe what Europeans know about North Dakota – nothing).

    Anyway, what I saw in Europe I see here as well… you guys get ideologically bound and then when your toy-fuhrer (bush or obama) doesn't do exactly as you want, you get angry. You treat political leaders as if you are high-maintenance chicks: "my boyfriend must do as I want, or he's out the door".

    Right now, the only thing that the health insurance bill contains, is the provision that makes it mandatory to buy insurance from private companies – is that what you want Congress to vote?

    (if they do, I'll go back into insurance immediately to make a lot of money).

    Finally, the "stimulus money" – where do you think this money comes from? the other middle class and the working class (sales taxes, real estate taxes, all sorts of small taxes). The rich don't care – they make trusts and they put their money into trusts, insurance vehicles, real estate (hedge against the inflation that will wipe out the rest of you), and in off-shore bank accounts and gold holdings.

    I have never heard of such a New Generation of Young People with so little pride that they' re desperately angry to get stimulus money – now, THAT's pathetic.

  20. kmi says

    Holy Sh*it! Are the comments so far a fair representation of liberal thought on gov't spending? No wonder you're screwed.

  21. MobiusKlein says

    kmi, in my local jurisdiction (SF / CA) tax revenue has gone down because of lower income taxes(unemployment), lower property taxes (home prices going down), lower sales taxes ( spending going down). But strangely, the number of kids attending my local schools has not changed one bit.

    So either we pay teachers less or lay them off. (or hey, maybe as a country we should pay into health care what countries like Canada does?)

    Seriously, wtf do we as a country want to spend our money on? Schools or Guns, and if we're freezing spending on domestic discretionary items, that means less on schools.

    And it's not "you're" that we are discussing, it's US. The doctors that care for you when you get old are the kids of today.

  22. says

    But Jonathan, what exactly would this "leadership" look like? The Republicans are able to be discipline for precisely the reason democrats aren't – they're narrowed the party tent. I think this is the double-edged sword of building coalitions.

    I'm still not sure what the president is up to – it seems much to early to tell and like others have pointed out, the actual cuts could put a lot more emphasis and programs that actually work, as opposed to greasing specific interests.

    Again, I'm no big fan of this on its face. But all this defeatism over what appears to be a minor policy move seems WAY too overblown. This won't make the liberal Dems happy – but how can you argue with the nihilism of people so eager to cut off their nose to spite their face on heal care. And this could only help the conservative Dems worried (idiotically) about tough campaigns in the fall. Seems kind of zero sum, really.

  23. FoolishCop says

    You do realize, don't you, that his "spending freeze" is only the very small (17%) non-entitlement program budget? That the vast majority of government programs, the remaining 83%, will still be allowed to grow like kudzu? I think you can all stop your hyperventilating. The liberal agenda remains firmly intact and this wink-and-a-nod salve to "fiscal conservatism" is just to stem the tide of outrage by the public against liberals.


  24. Barry says

    JohnN says:

    "We’re not going to lose the Senate in 2010, mathematically very unlikely, for that matter."

    Lessee, now: add 3-5 senators to the GOP ranks, plus Joe Liarberscum, plus a few more 'centrist' Dem senators who like the GOP more and realize which way the wind is blowing. The senate is not technically lost, it's just not going to vote for anything that the GOP doesn't like.

  25. bakho says

    Voters are angry because of lack of JOBS. Voters are angry because "All that spending has not created JOBS".

    What does Obama propose? "Cut spending. The heck with creating JOBS".

    Our elites are morons. No matter how much spending is cut, voters will say, "We are spending too much for the number of JOBS created". By spending to create JOBS, voters would say, "We are probably spending too much, but I am not angry because the spending is creating JOBS". It's the JOBS, stupid, not the spending.

  26. theodoric off athens says

    We can hope (with some justification) that this will be just more Obama hot air on which he has no real intention of delivering, just like HCR, DADT, banking reform, and the closing of Guantanamo.

    In any case, we do not have, and have never had, any prospect of enacting Keynes' prescription for a deflationary economy on a large enough scale to have the desired effect. Spending freezes are mostly theatrical anyway.

  27. John Williams says

    Yes, he fooled us. We also fooled ourselves, again.

    The two party system, as it exists today, is making fools out of almost everyone.

    For several decades, the two party system has only worked for politicians, lobbyists, corporations and wealthy people.

    We, the people, need to abandon both parties.

    Check out this link for an eye opening, calm, reasonable, non-flaky explanation of how we got into this mess:


    This little online book was written by the guy who runs the web site "Stop me before I vote again" (.org).

    In particular, he explains why progressives are wasting their time and money on the Democratic party.

    Cool stuff.

  28. says

    How does one give oneself a lobotomy if one is lacking in actual brains to begin with?

    (I'm sorry, should "one" be capitalized?)

    Welcome to the real world, children, where you cannot spend yourself out of bankruptcy, you cannot get everything you want simply becuase you think you have a right to it, and electing shallow, narcissistic, inexperienced lightweights to the office of the President is not considered a good idea.

  29. pdgrey says

    You ask what could be worse? How about when "Ronald Obama" cuts Medicare and Social Security.

  30. DancingOpossum says

    Well, I didn't vote for him or donate to him (I did vote downticket Dems), and I was one of the people running around screaming with my hair on fire about what a lousy candidate he was, only to be called a racist Republican hope killer and possibly a secret Satanic baby-eater for my troubles.

    And no, I'm not enjoying this. I thought he would be mediocre with moments of bad, even at my lowest expectations I never thought he would be so horrifically, unendingly bad, so war-loving and destructive of the Democratic Party and the country. I wanted the country to do well, I thought he and his fellow Dems would at least try to make things better for all of us. But they didn't. They don't give a damn about any of us–so why should we give them our votes??

    Like lambert says, don't fall for the incompetence meme. Obama and his fellow DINOs are pursuing exactly the strategies they want. They have gotten everything that they and their puppet-masters wanted.

    You say Republicans would have been worse? How, exactly? Democrats might have actually opposed some of the lousy policies Obama is pushing for, if a Republican president had proposed them. Now, get ready to say BUH-BYE to Social Security, Medicare, and whatever other pathetic shreds of a social safety net (and functioning government) we have left.

  31. frankenduf says

    lol DancingOpposum- that baby line cracked me up- so i take it u wouldn't have given him the Nobel Peace Prize? :)

  32. DancingOpossum says

    no frankenduf, but as Chris Floyd reminded us at the time, Alfred Nobel was the inventor of dynamite so there might have been some rationale for it after all :)

  33. ugsome says

    Simple. So you could win.

    When Obama tossed women and gays overboard in favor of courting the fundies, that should've been a clue that any and all Democratic values could be ditched in a heartbeat. But the hip librul dudes I know didn't pay attention because it wasn't their feet in the stirrups or their civil rights. They wanted us pesky girls and homos to siddown and shuddup so they could win an election for a change–and look cool on the cheap.

    Maybe you all will listen to your wives and girlfriends next time.

  34. says

    Hi Zas,

    Been awhile. Your name always pops up in the most random of places, as in Americablog. But glad you are still out there doing this. BTW, do you still have all World Series champions memorized or was that a high school trick?


    PS, as others have noted, you voted for Obama to help ensure there wld be no VP Palin. Rs: vote for us or die; Ds: we're not them! But tossing Dean aside to hire Kaine, and also Rahm-y, Timmy and Larry? That's not change I can believe in.

  35. Jeeves says

    Jeez, it soooo sucks to be a lib these days. Oh, the agony, the agony! Aah, the schaudenfreude, the schaudenfreude! I feel so terribly guilty. Not.

    My advice to you guys, to quote Pluto, is to start drinking heavily. It will be a long cold lonely ten months.


  36. eurogirl70 says

    You know what, many of us told you what an abject failure Obama was going to be and no one wanted to hear us. I was called a bitter uneducated, ignorant racist for clearly seeing the writing on the wall. Fact of the matter is that I am in my 30's with a B.A. in Political Science, an M.A. in International Relations, a member of the so-called "creative class" that went on to tell half of the Democratic Party that their services and support were neither required nor desired. To top it all off I am gay.

    So what clue did I have that so many of you clearly either didn't or chose to ignore? Was it the fact that he had never accomplished anything? He was a community organizer with a paper thin resume. He had yet to have finished one (1)full term in the Senate. His "handlers" and major money backing came from the very industries and sources that true liberals have been railing against since Reagan was in office. Was it his vote to give retro-active immunity to the telecomms? Was it that fact that he has never stuck his neck out for anything or anyone. I do not call making one (1) anti-war speech on the U. of Chicago campus that went un-noticed and un-recorded until needed for a political prop a real "Profiles in Courage" moment. Was it his statement that he would, as President, re-visit and re-negotiate NAFTA only to tell Canada, through back-door channels, that his statement was merely to garner political points with his "base"? Was it that fact that he never attended a gay pride parade, went on a Southern gospel tour with Rev. Donnie McClurkin who claims that "Jesus" cured him of his gayness? Could it be that with the flourish of his pen, by executive order, he could over-turn DOMA and DADT but has not. This a man with 300 electoral college votes, and what were 60 votes in the Senate and a majority in the House? Could it be that he said this summer that he would veto any health care bill that did not contain a public option and then had old Rahm go up to the hill and tell Harry to give ole Joe Lieberman what he wanted?

    Where in the hell were all of you? Sucking on the Hopium pipe!

  37. says

    Eurogirl70, I cannot empathize, but I sympathize. Who did you vote for in the primary if I may ask? I did not vote for Obama then, but given our broken 2-party system cum corporatist state in the general, he was always going to be the lesser of 2 evils… McCain DQ'd himself the moment he surrendered his soul w/ the Palin pick (his Palinbotomy). BTW, it should not have mattered how Obama won; once he did, he could have governed anyway he chose.

  38. eurogirl70 says


    I voted for Hillary in the primaries. She was the most qualified candidate we had running. I went and saw John Edwards and very clearly saw through his little populist schtick. I have not always agreed with Hillary on some issues, but we needed an FDR and not a JFK at this moment. We are not coming off the relative peace and prosperity of the 1950's. Hell, even Eisenhower a Republican kept the wealthist 1% in this country taxed at 90% and we still had millionaires. We are in the crapper. I am not a fan of any Republican, let alone McCain, but when I heard about Edwards being used as a spoiler in Iowa, when there was already talk of a possible "mistress gate" my blood boiled. When I listened to Democrats use the mantra "count every vote" after the debacles of 2000 and 2004 and then agree at the Rules and Bylaws Committee decided to not count the votes in Michigan and Florida because those were "the rules" all parties agreed to, my blood boiled.

    Had the Democratic primary used the same "winner takes all" system used by the Republican's, Hillary would have been the nominee. She would have easily trounced McCain. Would I have agreed with her on all issues. No. On most, Yes. I had to hear right-wing talking points, created by the Republicans parroted back by Democrats I had come to admire and respect. I have been a Democrat since I was eligible to vote in the 1988 election. I, unlike Caroline Kennedy-Schlossberg, have never not voted in a state-wide or national election. I have voted a straight Democratic ticket during those years. I was not one of those naive idiots in 2000 who voted for Nadar; seeing no difference between Bush and Gore. However, I did not cast a vote for the top ticket this past election and I have re-registered as an Independent.

  39. C. Gonzalez says

    Frankly, I think you are overreacting. The amount of spending in the freeze is trivial. More broadly, if progressives want Obama to push a progressive policy agenda, then progressives must first convince the political center of the wisdom of their policies.

    If Obama is not progressive enough for you, please let us know which progressive do you think could someday be elected President?

  40. says

    You went full disclosure there, so I will return the gesture: Zasloff and I went to high school together. He's wicked smart (and had better be reading these comments; Zas — did you see that Matt Weiner is now the Exec Producer of Mad Man?). I was Independent but my recall is so bad, I think I had to re-register as a Democrat in order to vote in the CA primary. I mailed in my ballot for Kucinich the day before he dropped out. Yes, it was a wasted vote, but lil' DK seemed to espouse the positions closest to my own worldview (troops home, single-payer, investigate war crimes…). I kept the mini-flyer I got from 1 of his wife's speeches out here; alongside the Obama post-card that asks me to donate to the DNC so Obama can defeat the lobbyists. What a contrast.

    I agree that this country's off the cliff. I was already the "full cynical". What happens when other Obama voters sit the next one out b/c of his broken promises? Talk about feeling disenfranchised!

  41. Brett says

    Obama's scared (and I say this as someone who voted and contributed for him in 2008). Consider this weak attempt to show "fiscal discipline" (fat chance – the Republicans will just throw the bailouts and stimulus in his face), combined with the reports that he's assembling some of his old election team back together to fight the good fight later this year.

  42. tdraicer says

    >Why exactly did I give money and make calls for this guy in 2008?

    Beats the hell out of me-but then I saw what Obama was (a shallow center-Right corporatist pol of the sort who would make Bill Clinton look like FDR) all the way back in 2004, when after listening to his speech at the Democratic convention I turned to my Significant Other and said,"Better hope that guy never gets the Democratic nomination." So, no, I don't get why any liberal didn't see what he was: Was it the revenge of identity politics? Sexism? CDS? Shock after 8 years of W? Whatever it was, it was really no excuse-the truth was always right out in the open.

  43. Shelly says

    What to do for the lobotomized citizenery of the world. Can they be helped if it is a full lobotomy? Can you legally brain transplant a suitable brain in the heads if they are innocent? What if they are being programmed to send these emails? What to do about that probable situation because it seems to be the same organizations? What to do if you are bond to silence about what has happened to the lobotomized citizen you are caring for through a computer? Please help me!


  1. [...] Obama’s Self-Inflicted Lobotomy Proceeds Apace « The Reality-Based Community: I’m trying to think of what could possibly be a worse plan.  Let’s see: we might be entering a double-dip recession and unemployment is in double-digits, and you are going to freeze spending?  What in God’s name are they thinking? Perhaps the worst thing about this is how it cedes the ideological ground to the Republicans.  At some point someone must make an argument for government.  I think it was former Senator Paul Simon who said: “give the voters a choice between a Republican and a Republican and they will choose a Republican every time.” [...]

  2. [...] Jonathan Zasloff writes (TOH Krugman) that “At some point someone must make an argument for government.” Our take is that by harping on government in all its forms (besides those forms that help favored firms and industries collect their share of rents from the rest of us, of course), Republicans leave the door open to the development of increasingly socialist policies. In fact, if our take on the private sector economy is accurate, they practically mandate it: http://www.samefacts.com/2010/01/politics-and-leadership/obamas-self-inflicted-lobotomy-proceeds-apa… [...]