Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Obama McCain Hoover? Crazy Open Thread

Have I gone crazy, or is it everyone else?

Overnight there is news that the Obama administration is considering cutting around 2% of the budget in 2011 – this after a large stimulus package. But to go from the blogs I swing by, you’d think that the President had just invaded a small country, and started torturing the inhabitants.

The Great Blogfather on MYDD posts up these two images (the second stolen from FDL apparently.)

Just to get this conversation going, and to carry it over to this thread, my comment to Jerome and other hair burning liberals is this:

Am I missing something beyond a premature sense of retribution?

Obama is proposing a 2 per cent cut in spending for next year – 2011.. Gordon Brown is proposing the same here in the UK. Yet, though the Labour Party is significantly to the left of the Democratic Party, he is not being met by howls of traitor because of it.

Bizarre. On this level, I really don’t get US democratic politics: practically centrist, theoretically leftist, emotionally dysfunctional

Meanwhile HappyinVT fills in more policy detail:

Apparently, everyone is freaking out over something that:

1) we don’t know the full details of yet;

2) sounds like it’s probably part of the fulfillment of the “spending money wisely” campaign promise;

3) has been in the works for months and not a part of the freak-out from Brown’s election;

4) apparently it’s $250b over ten years; that’s a pittance (despite TPM calling it a “major” spending freeze);

5) it’s not a “freeze” in the normal sense; it is a shift of money around to where they think it is more needed.

Some say it’s about ‘messaging’ but Creamer makes a point about this obsession with blogospheric  messaging:

The White House has leaked/announced a plan to freeze discresionary spending for three years begining in 2011…. Some who critizied for not attacking special interests are now complaining about a bill designed in part to fight special interest and the pork they represent…

In its attempts to govern the liberal media might be losing its relevance.

What does the Moose think of the latest news. A storm in a teacup? Another sign Obama is being pushed to the right? Is the current furore helping him shift away from the right?


  1. sricki

    I was actually about to diary this, but instead I will post what I had done thus far here. Maybe my rant will kick off the conversation. And parts of it will not be overly pleasant to a lot of people, so it is not FP material. So perhaps best for an open thread:

    * * * * * * * * * * *

    News about a potential “spending freeze” came down the usual wires the last couple of days, and the liberal blogosphere promptly wet its large collective bed, ignoring fervent appeals from all directions that it not do so. I’m not going to sit here and bash Left blogistan, seeing as how technically I am Left blogistan, but I will say that the (very possibly premature) alarmism I am seeing across the spectrum is slightly vexing. I am not an apologist — and will not play one even for a president I put effort into electing, if I deem his actions unwise — but nor am I hasty to issue condemnations of any sort before I have all the facts. Do I like the sound of a “spending freeze”? Not particularly. But am I ready to leap down the president’s throat about it?


    The new policy, already widely decried and misunderstood before Obama has even had the opportunity to formally announce it, will call for a three year freeze in spending for a number of domestic programs and will provide for increases not exceeding inflation in years following.

    The freeze would cover the agencies and programs for which Congress allocates specific budgets each year, including air traffic control, farm subsidies, education, nutrition and national parks.

    But it would exempt security-related budgets for the Pentagon, foreign aid, the Veterans Administration and homeland security, as well as the entitlement programs that make up the biggest and fastest-growing part of the federal budget: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

    New York Times

    This move is being called Hooverism, an insane Republican-style budget gimmick, certain to send us spiraling into another Great Depression. Krugman calls it “appalling on every level.” Kossacks GBCW and call Obama a “bad president.”  I’m seeing indignation, outrage, derision, and ridicule from every corner of our virtual world.

    But is it rash?

    We don’t even have all the details yet. This isn’t intended to be an across-the-board freeze; supposedly, it’s meant to increase efficiency in spending, not simply to tighten the budget.

    President Obama will propose freezing non-security discretionary government spending for the next three years, a sweeping plan to attempt deficit reduction that will save taxpayers $250 billion over 10 years.

    When the administration releases its budget next week, the discretionary spending for government agencies from Health and Human Services to the Department of Treasury will be frozen at its 2010 level in fiscal years 2011, 2012 and 2013.

    A senior administration official detailed the move, speaking on a condition of anonymity because Obama will announce his decision during his State of the Union address Wednesday night.

    The cuts would target “duplicative,” “ineffective” and “inefficient” spending withing government, the official said on a conference call with reporters.

    “This is not a blunt, across-the-board freeze,” the official said, adding that some agencies will see spending increases while some will see spending cuts as the total remains constant.

    Exempted from the freeze would be Pentagon funding, and the budgets for Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security.

    Talking Points Memo

    For a bit more clarification, here’s Jared Bernstein, Chief Economist and Economic Policy Adviser to VP Biden, on Maddow’s show last night. Draw what conclusions you can. I’m still drawing mine.

    For now, rather than rushing to judgment in either direction, I will (by and large) hold my tongue and reserve my criticisms until I have more information. But a few thoughts and comments for now, and these are absolutely my opinions alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of most moose —

    On the president. At the moment, I am pretty underwhelmed. I know what he inherited. I know what he’s up against. I never expected him to be perfect or even transformative — I don’t expect him to save the world, the country, the Democratic party, or me (jobless and financially hurting as I am). But I am disappointed. On HCR, I think that mixed and ambiguous messages from the administration helped muddle the debate and allowed Republicans to seize control of the narrative. Our military spending is still out of control, and the escalation of troops in Afghanistan makes me nervous. Things I believe are important are being put off or ignored, though I understand the political reality of the situation. I understand that fighting harder on LGBT issues and prosecuting guilty parties from the previous administration are not priorities — and I understand why. Principle is important to me, but so is realism. I am not angry that the president’s agenda does not sync perfectly with my own — I assume he knows more than I do. But unless Obama does some tall convincing about this freeze during his address tomorrow night, disappointment about his economic leadership will deepen for me as well. Based on what I have read and heard, I do not think this “freeze” will tank the economy, but nor do I think it will be justifiably ameliorative in any arena. It does strike me, at the moment, as gimmicky — and ultimately a drop in the bucket. Much of the base seems restless and unhappy, and I can’t help thinking that Obama bears some responsibility for that. I could be wrong.

    On the blogosphere. I believe that it is a powerful tool for liberal and progressive activism and, as such, has an important role in politics today. But right now, we are truly eating our own. The FDL types and, of late, even a lot of the more reasonable voices in Left blogistan have become rather shrill. We are dividing ourselves into camps, at our peril. There are the Obama loyalists who seem to believe the president can do no wrong, and the screeching puritans who will not give the man a break. We need to find a balance. This president is not perfect, nor should we expect him to be. There is talk of primarying him — over HCR, over the freeze, over sneezing in the wrong direction on a Saturday. There is talk of challenging every Democrat in Congress who either votes for a flawed HCR bill or fails to vote for it, depending on which side a given zealot falls. I know that the liberal/progressive blogosphere is not necessarily the base, but activists are an important component of it. We need to be working together, and we are eating our own. I am not here to issue an “I told you so” to formerly devoted and now disillusioned Obama supporters — but those once so hopeful, now so faithless and downtrodden supporters need a stiff reality injection. The alternative to Obama — to Democrats in Congress — is far worse. Those who are angry with the president need to take a step back and remember that we could have had McCain — could be on a path to Palin.

    In my most humble and unworthy opinion… just about everyone needs to take a deep breath — and a step back. We are standing at a precipice. Why so many people are eager to take a leap is beyond me.

    * * * * * * * * * * *

    A diary within a diary, look at that! ; )

  2. DTOzone

    I think what everyone is really angry about is that the sense is Democrats have conceded the argument about deficits and spending, one they lost decades ago and really had no chance of winning again.  

  3. maybe its me, or the fact that i have had less time to follow, obsessively every press conference and policy move, but this hysteria on the left is growing tiresome.

    i recall a story a friend once told me. in it, whilst she was taking her mba – the students were asked to, through a computer application to attempt to balance the federal budget using whatever criteria they so chose. the results obviously being that it was impossible to do.

    i think ill wait until all the information is available before i begin pulling out my hair.

  4. HappyinVT

    Although I heard she spent a lot of timing talking over Mr. Bernstein.  I will say that I really love the neon red BREAKING NEWS at the bottom of the screen.  Seriously?  Breaking news hyperbole over $250b over 10 years?  Breaking news hyperbole over what could possible amount to using tax payer dollars more wisely?  Seriously?

    As has been mentioned it sounds like people are more concerned that Obama is giving ground on the notion that more spending is bad.  Candidate Obama talked about going through the federal budget line by line to cease the fraud, waste, and abuse.  Can someone point me to where this is potentially anything other than that?  Can someone tell how this is a bad idea?

    My comment in an earlier diary linked to Peter Orszag’s blog about the 2011 budget following up on these issues that were begun in the 2010 budget.  So, those who want to see that as just another way Obama has stabbed progressives in the back, go ahead with your freak out.

    Me, I’m waiting at least until tomorrow.

  5. creamer

     To me it seems like an aknowledgement that at some point we have to get a handle on the deficit.

    Last night I watched Olberman hyper-ventilate and Maddow smiling while she told Bernstein he was just wrong on every level. I’m sure Schultz is doing his Rush impression today. HP is lining up every liberal naysayer it can find.

    Apparently Obama, Biden and his economic and pollical team are the only ones who like this.

       I think the media is poisoning the debate, the need for headlines is destroying our ability to have a rational debate.  

  6. HappyinVT

    “When we had sixty votes there was the expectation left, right, and center that we could do everything we wanted to do, which was never realistic. Never,” Biden told the crowd of about 100 people. “Yes it’s had a practical impact, but I’m not so sure what a blessing 60 votes was.”


    Biden said that when they had 59 seats in the Senate “no one though that somehow we were destined to fail … Nobody thought we would not be able to get anything done.

    “We were energized by the possibilities that came with a strong majority and we still are,” he said.

    “Look, we understand that people are frustrated,” Biden said. “If the Lord Almighty were president why wouldn’t they be frustrated? There’s over 10 million people unemployed.

    “We didn’t need a public opinion poll or a tough loss in Massachusetts to tell us that,” Biden said. “There is a message in this loss” that people expect the government to understand their problems.


    I think he’s right on a lot of this.  We were soooo stoked about that mythical, magical number 60 we didn’t think about who those 60 were.

  7. HappyinVT

    On Friday, Paul Streitz, the co-founder of the 2012 Draft Sarah Committee – a group trying to get Palin to run for president in 2012 – sent out an e-mail slamming Palin for supporting McCain:

    She has now chose to align herself with several bad actors. What should this be called, the Rinoization of Sarah Palin. […]

    She is certainly entitled to write a book and make money for her and her family, but other than what has she has done to support Republican and patriotic candidates. … Perhaps, Sarah was too busy talking to her agent about her Fox deal. Where the hell was Sarah?

    Steitz is no longer part of the draft Sarah group and, according to the article, Michelle Malkin and Glenn Beck among others aren’t pleased, either.

    Apparently, she’s feeling the heat on her Facebook page, too.  

  8. HappyinVT

    Everyone but a few are completely outraged about it; makes me think I’m missing something because I’m not.  And, I’d like to think it’s not that I’m trying to make excuses for the president; there truly are things I’m not happy about.

    So, because I’m bored at work, I’ve been surfing around and ran into Booman Tribune.  I don’t agree with his overall conclusion but he made me think.  First he starts with a quote from the The Washington Post:

    “While the freeze would shave no more than $15 billion off next year’s budget — barely denting a deficit projected to exceed $1 trillion for the third year in a row — White House officials described it as a critical part of a broader deficit-reduction campaign intended to restore confidence in Obama’s ability to control the excesses of Washington.”

    Then he moves on to Steve Benen’s response, which he terms as one of the more sensible progressive responses:

    Indeed, while we wait for additional details — an administration official said the cuts would target “duplicative,” “ineffective,” and “inefficient” spending — I’m tempted to call the freeze idea symbolic, at best. In President Obama’s first budget proposed cutting $11.5 billion in spending, and most of the cuts were approved by Congress. This next budget, including the freeze, is eyeing reductions between $10 billion to $15 billion.

    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.

    Booman then ends with this:

    This is the same framing/Overton Window rabbit hole that progressives seem obsessed with, but really means nothing. The problem isn’t that “spending freeze” ostensibly endorses a braindead McCain campaign proposal. The problem is that the proposal is a joke that will be taken seriously by exactly no one in the commentariat (excluding Pavlovian anti-Obama progressives). So, in the arena of public opinion making, this proposal is indefensible and will be rightly ridiculed by all sides. It’s only virtue is its unseriousness, and that is no virtue at all.

    Having said that, it will cause no real harm beyond whatever political cost there is to being laughed off the front-page.

    (I hope I’m not in some kind of fair-use violation because that’s about the whole post.)

    It made me think, however, that I’m not sure that this was meant to be a big deal.  It’s a small number, not some “major” spending freeze like talkingpointsmemo called it.  Benen calls it “symbolic at best” and seems more teed off about how it supposedly plays into Republican framing.  But it’s a small amount of money blown up into some major fucking deal by a bunch of blow hard MSM types (and I’n looking at Olbermann and Maddow in particular with their BREAKING NEWS crap).

    So is this some kind of freak out over something that was not meant to be a big deal?  Is this more of the president taking some steps to get us more fiscally responsible?  I wonder if he and his advisors are sitting in the Oval Office reading/watching the various pundits going, “WTF?”

  9. fogiv


    Progress Through Politics

    should be changed to

    One Corner of the Blogosphere Where We Don’t Shit Ourselves Every Fifteen Fucking Minutes.

  10. HappyinVT

    The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the government’s official fiscal scorekeeper, said Tuesday that the government faces a “daunting” fiscal future. The 2010 federal budget deficit will be $1.35 trillion, nearly as large as last year’s record $1.4 trillion budget shortfall, and deficits will average $600 billion over the next decade, according to CBO’s budget outlook.

    “U.S. fiscal policy is on an unsustainable path to an extent that cannot be solved by minor tinkering,” said CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf.

    He warned large amounts of debt often crowd out private investment, hampering worker productivity and income.


    White House officials acknowledged the freeze wouldn’t fix the country’s red ink problem but would show the government is concerned about it.

    “The president made these decisions like a family would sitting around the dinner table,” a senior administration official said. “It can’t spend more money than it has … it has to make some decisions about what is vital.”

    The article also points out that the Right ain’t happy because it doesn’t go far enough, the Left ain’t happy because you don’t freeze spending in  a recession and the Centrists (at least Bayh) are about the only ones voiceing some support.  I’m not one to believe that if both sides are pissed off you’re doing something right and I’m not thrilled Bayh is on board ’cause he’s proven to be a pain in the ass.  So, still, we wait for details.

  11. HappyinVT

    First Lady Michelle Obama addressed military spouses at the annual Joint Armed Forces Officers’ Wives’ Luncheon. There she announced a more than three percent increase in funding – to a record $8.8 billion — for military family support programs in the president’s forthcoming 2011 budget.



    (By the way, Michelle, looove the new do.)

  12. HappyinVT

    What he was trying to tell Rachel:

    First, an important note on timing. No one is arguing that we should take our foot off the accelerator today, when the economic recovery remains fragile and job growth has yet to return. In fact, you’ll hear from the President tomorrow night about measures we should undertake right away to jumpstart job creation. In his words and deeds, the President has made clear that recovery comes first. But that doesn’t mean we should wait to start changing the same bad habits in Washington that left a $1.3 trillion deficit on our doorstep when we entered office in January 2009, especially when we can do so without cutting back on our jobs agenda.

    Second, a little background on freeze-eology: there are two ways to do a freeze like this: (1) an across-the-board freeze on every program outside of national security; and (2) a surgical approach where overall totals are frozen but some individual programs go up and others go down. In short, a hatchet versus a scalpel.

    During the campaign, you may recall that John McCain touted option 1 – the hatchet approach of an across-the-board freeze.

    The President was critical of that approach then, and we would be critical of it now. It’s not what we’re proposing. To the contrary, the entire theory of the President’s proposed freeze is to dial up the stuff that will support job growth and innovation while dialing down the stuff that doesn’t. Under our plan, some discretionary spending will go up; some will go down. That’s a big difference from a hatchet.

    On some level, though, the administration can’t have it both ways. The category of spending they’re going after has traditionally grown at 5 percent a year. Over the three years that the freeze is supposed to last, that’s more than $100 billion that won’t be spent.


    …it will be Congress, not the administration, that decides which programs actually get cut and which are preserved, or see their funding increased.

    ezra klein

    Yes, I’m still stuck at work but I’m about over this topic for the night so…

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