Spending Freeze Schadenfreude

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on January 26, 2010

Almost as fascinating as watching the Obama Administration’s sudden reversal from “Keynesian” mode, to “spending freeze” mode, is watching the reaction of the port-side of the Blogosphere to the policy switch. For many on the other side of the partisan divide, the realization is dawning that President Obama is not the second coming of FDR. The reaction is pretty much a collective freak-out, which I guess that I can somewhat understand, given the fact that Senator Obama campaigned against a spending freeze.

1. In a “deep thought,” Duncan Black tells us that “the best defense of the ‘spending freeze’ is that it’s a cheap political gimmick with little actual impact.” Later on, we are informed that Black is considering drowning his sorrows. I usually don’t endorse this course of action, but hey, it might help his writing.

2. Over at Daily Kos, Jed Lewison echoes Black. Oh, bartender: Make that a double.

3. Maybe a triple. Of course, in response to this lament by Ezra Klein, Brad DeLong tells us that if only Gene Sperling were back in the White House, things would be under control again. You cannot make this stuff up. Like Lewison and Black, DeLong eventually tries to console himself . . . but not before pinning the “Herbert Hoover” tag on Barack Obama.

4. Paul Krugman is beside himself with rage. Maybe Krugman will work to resuscitate John Edwards’s political career, now that he appears to have given up on Barack Obama.

5. The Huffington Post is calling the Administration’s economic policy “schizophrenic,” which I guess is a turnaround from the days when they thought that the Administration’s was going to offer us a new New Deal.

6. Crooks and Liars (one does not quite know whether the name is supposed to serve as a denunciation, or a site description) is quite displeased. Of course, one does not turn to C&L for sophisticated economic analysis, but it is enough that these folks (a) know they like spending; (b) know that President Obama is going to engage in a whole lot less spending; and (c) are deeply unhappy about it.

7. Matt Yglesias does . . . what only Matt Yglesias can do–namely, make a funny situation even funnier:

. . . Suffice it to say that I’m very skeptical of this approach. I’m attempting not to freak out because (a) I don’t have details and (b) I suspect this initiative was deliberately leaked to progressive bloggers in an effort to get denounced by the left and I don’t want to give them the satisfaction.

Given the fact that everyone else has freaked out, Yglesias may commence panicking, but one has to marvel at the narcissism of his post. I recognize that the Blogosphere has come a long way, baby, but does anyone really believe that the Obama Administration’s master plan to appeal anew to independents and moderates involves getting liberal bloggers to lose their minds in pixels? Middle class families in Ohio are not going to rally to the President simply because Matt Yglesias might start chewing his fingernails to the quick.

8. Steve Benen, apparently, did not get the “Keep Calm, And Carry On” memo that Yglesias sought to pen:

So, if the proposal isn’t really going to change much, why is this disappointing? Because it fully embraces the conservative narrative, instead of using the power of the bully pulpit to explain why conservatives have it wrong.

It may be even worse as a policy matter — we just don’t have enough details to say — but that’s distressing enough.

9. Digby really didn’t get the memo:

As we know, Democrats are always rewarded for being fiscally responsible. If he’s lucky they’ll only censure him instead of impeach him.

I seem to recall that Bill Clinton got rewarded for being fiscally responsible. Of course, he had a Republican Congress helping him, but voters appeared to give the credit primarily to Clinton. Digby, of course, is above petty things like fiscal responsibility, and the attendant political benefits.

10. You knew this was coming:

It’s time to seriously start talking about primarying Obama in 2012. He’s now officially the most conservative Democratic President since Grover Cleveland. And the dumbest one since James Buchanan.

(The funny thing, of course, is that if this move to the center succeeds, the Open Left folks will be the first ones to claim that they always had faith in Obama, that they knew all along he would outwit the Republicans, etc.)

11. Nate Silver considers the Obama proposal “on par with John McCain’s ‘suspending my campaign’ gaffe,” during the height of the financial crisis. Later, he opines thusly:

I’m fairly certain that the “spending freeze” will poll well in the near-term, and may even take Obama’s approval numbers up a point or so with it. But Obama’s not the one on the ballot in 2010; in the medium run, it’s most likely effect is to confuse voters, and in the long run, it’ll probably either be forgotten about or become Another Broken Promise™. The narrative about the “perpetual campaign” is generally kind of facile, but this whole thing has a weirdly campaign-trail quality to it.

12. We close out this overview with the hilariously named “Reality-Based Community.” First of all, let it be noted that Jonathan Zasloff is very angry. Mark Kleiman, who remains wedded to the belief that Barack Obama can walk on water–before turning it into wine, of course–tells us that things aren’t so bad . . . and gets ripped in the comments section. Example:

What you seem to be implying, Mark, is that this “freeze” is a political stunt. I thought we were done with those. . . .

Example:

So lets all hope that our President is a transparently venal coward with no substance to what he says he’ll do. And, on top of that, that he’s retarded, given that the politics of what he says offer plenty of losses and no gains at all. . . .

Example (this in response to Kleiman’s hope that NASA and farm subsidies take the hits; it is worth quoting in full):

Do you get nothing? Nothing?

Look, what matters most in today’s environment is that Obama is seeking to freeze OVERALL spending. If you’ve understood even the slightest particle of Keynesian theory, you should get that what really counts in a major economic downturn like this is that DEMAND MUST BE INCREASED. The way to increase demand is to INCREASE SPENDING. It mostly doesn’t matter what the money is spent on; Keynes, as I recollect, talked about digging holes and filling them as being adequate to the purpose.

Acting as if it doesn’t matter that Obama is seeking to freeze spending because he still can allocate the monies in somewhat different ways is nothing but economic ignorance of the most basic kind.

Andrew Sabl tries to call the meeting to order. He gets this for his pains (again, worth quoting in full):

Oooohhhh, I get it!! Obama is playing 11-dimensional chess again, or wait, is it up to 14 dimensions now? He is always sooooo far ahead of us, how can we ever keep up with such brilliance?

It’s really funny watching the ever more desperate, floundering grabs at some proof, some vague shred of evidence, that Obama really, really, really isn’t the most awful president since Lil’ Bush. If you just keep clapping louder and saying “I do believe in Hope! I do believe in Hope!” maybe it will all go away — but probably not.

I don’t think I can top that. I guess the only remaining question, of course, is whether this bunch will be traveling to Indonesia anytime soon.

  • califguy

    In this White House, there is no there there. It's all smoke and mirrors, bells and whistles, held together with glib talk, Chicago politics and an audacious sense of entitlement.

    On a side note, the emperor has no clothes and hence no coattails. New Jersey, Virginia, Copen Hagen (twice) and lastly Massachusetts.

  • http://togetrichisglorious.blogspot.com Colin77

    This is comforting in a way. I remember when the left warned that Gingrich's budget cuts would result in old people dining on dog food. I figured it was just rhetoric meant to score political points. Apparently these people are so deluded they actually think every single dollar spent by the governent is absolutely necessary.

  • http://togetrichisglorious.blogspot.com Colin77

    This is comforting in a way. I remember when the left warned that Gingrich's budget cuts would result in old people dining on dog food. I figured it was just rhetoric meant to score political points. Apparently these people are so deluded they actually think every single dollar spent by the governent is absolutely necessary.

Previous post:

Next post: