The blogosphere was abuzz today with the news from the Obama Administration that it was floating a proposal of a three-year freeze discretionary of federal spending not related to national security. Reactions ranged from a suggestion that the move was a cheap and infantile gimmick; to a discussion of how both the political left and right will hate the freeze; and to a somewhat cooler and sober sentiment that, "sometimes a freeze isn't that much of a freeze."
CNN.com provides a brief summation of what this could mean:
When the White House talks about non-security discretionary spending, it's referring to spending on an array of domestic programs -- everything from agriculture to energy -- that add up to $447 billion of roughly $3.5 trillion in the federal budget. It does not include Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Obama's plan to freeze spending would not apply to those or other entitlement programs.
According to CNN, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said, "Instead of wielding an across-the-board axe, the president will cut programs that are duplicative or that he believes serve no important purpose."
Let's bear in mind that there's a big difference between freezing funding and eliminating funding, and some programs that might be affected recently received between seven and ten percent funding increases. Of course, I need not point out the apparent irony of an Administration that has staked no small amount of political capital on stimulus spending suddenly announcing a spending freeze. But I guess that raises a question. If Gibbs is right (not just spinning) and the freeze targets non-essential and/or duplicative government services, whereas much of the stimulus money targeted much-needed infrastructure projects, then is the freeze not such a big deal, at least with regard to the Administration's overall agenda? – The point being that it is possible to have a stimulus program while paring back outmoded or redundant spending. The stimulus was not intended to be a waste of money, it was intended to be an investment.