Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"In this universe, there's only one absolute... everything freezes!"

The White House is taking a page out of Mr. Freeze's book. They have proposed a three-year freeze on non-security discretionary spending, starting in 2011. Within the overall freeze, some programs will lose funding and others will gain funding.

This is mainly window dressing, if you ask me. The White House says it can save $250bn over the next 10 years. That sounds like something congress will let pass unscathed, I'm sure. Assuming the WH targets bad programs for cuts, and boosts spending on good programs, will that survive the process of getting through congress? Congress won't cut subsidies to agriculture and corn ethanol, among many other things.

Second, the problem with the deficit and debt is entitlements, not discretionary spending. Exempting entitlements (and defense) is ignoring the big problem. You can cut discretionary spending down to zero, and the long-term deficit will still spiral out of control if nothing is done about Medicare costs. Passing health care reform would do far more to reduce the deficit than this spending freeze.

The Pentagon's budget will be over $700bn, and nobody who is sane thinks that there isn't room for cuts in there. Too bad the WH is too risk-averse to take on the military-industrial complex. They made a very small start with the first defense budget, but even then it still grew. Arbitrarily exempting the Pentagon from this "attempt" at deficit reduction is conceding victory to the GOP and defense contractors without a fight.

Color me unimpressed.

EDIT: Ackerman has another good post on the dumb defense budget.

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