Progressive Lyceum

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Remember the McCain spending freeze?

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Late during the 2008 Presidential election, John McCain proposed a freeze on most government spending if he were elected. He didn’t really ever get too specific about it, but he made it clear that most government spending outside of defense was on the table.

We know what happened since then. Barack Obama was elected, and in his first month in office, we lost 3/4ths of a million jobs. He shepherded a stimulus bill through Congress that has so far created or saved somewhere between 2-3 million jobs.

Given how obstructionist the Republicans have shown themselves willing to be, it’s safe to say that the stimulus (and health care reform, unemployment extensions, small business assistance, etc.) would not have been possible without a relatively cooperative Congress controlled by Democrats.

Recent polls have shown that the public is restless for the problem to be fixed soon, and have also shown that voter intensity on the Republican side is much higher than it is on the Democratic side.

So why the reference to McCain’s proposal, which never had a chance to be implemented?

Simply put, it’s a template for how Republicans are likely to control the country’s purse strings if they regain control of one or both houses in November. If you look carefully at what they’re saying about government spending, it’s clear that they are keen to put a stop to most of it. Here’s a representative sample from the issues page of Bill Hudak, the Republican challenging my Congressman, John Tierney, in Massachusetts’ 6th Congressional District:

Since January, 2009, Congress has lost fiscal responsibility by rushing through Multi-Trillion Dollar legislation without reading it, raising our national debt from $10 Trillion to a projected $24 Trillion and more by 2019, not even considering the proposed $1.5 Trillion additional spending on proposed health care reform. The interest on that debt alone by July, 2009, eclipsed $1 Trillion per year, making it the nation’s third largest line item expense behind only the entire military budget and our major welfare programs. That wasted money is what could be going toward real social and other programs, or returned to you in the form of tax savings to allow you to build your American lives and raise your families. Instead, to pay that debt, Congress has to “rob Peter to pay Paul”.

What Hudak is proposing here is dramatically cutting the government spending that was primarily responsible for stopping America’s economic slide and turning us toward the path of a nascent and fragile economic recovery. And the tax savings? Well, if it looked anything like what folks like him did when Bush was running things, middle class families would see tax savings equal to roughly one month’s oil heat bill, while Paris Hilton and the guys running Citigroup and Bank of America would see “tax savings” in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Last I checked, the folks who would get the biggest slice of said “tax savings” have no trouble at all “building their American lives” even in the current lousy economic climate.

What a halt to government spending would mean, in all probability, is a backward slide into depression. Without the government spending to propel the recovery, the economy would be travelling into headwinds even greater than exist now. More tax cuts, which would disproportionately favor the wealthy, would redirect more of America’s wealth upward, and lead to greater cuts to basic services at the state and local level. Public libraries? The outlook isn’t pretty.

Nobody thinks that long-term systemic deficits are desirable. But the best solution for bringing down the deficits and the national debt are expanding the tax base by putting people back to work, investing in improvements to our transportation and energy systems, and allowing Bush’s tax cuts (which resulted in a $3 trillion addition to the national debt that you never hear conservatives mention when they talk about it) to expire.

Given the behavior of Congressional Republicans thus far into the Obama Administration, does anyone think they’d have any qualms at all about tying Obama’s hands on spending, or even shutting down the government by failing to fund it?

Democrats had better get engaged. Because if they don’t, we’ll be talking about America’s economic recovery in the past tense.


Written by Devin Rambo

June 27, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Posted in Economy

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