Phil: I agree that it’s important for Republicans to get behind this, even if it is mostly symbolic. Of course you could use it to partisan advantage, as the Republicans have done with any proposed cuts to entitlements suggested for health care reform, but that’s a possibility that is simply unthinkable given the state of the country’s finances.
It’s interesting to think of the politics of the freeze. The administration’s current legislative agenda precludes even the hint of cuts to entitlements: the Republicans have already shown the costs to such threats with the health care bill. Sadly, that means that the administration won’t even consider 50 percent of the budget for freezes or cuts.
That leaves discretionary spending. “Security” spending is over 50 percent of discretionary spending. So when Obama annouces freezing non-security spending, he’s only talking about one eighth of overall spending. It is amazing to me that security spending is just as untouchable as entitlement spending. It seems perfectly logical to me that old folks would get fired up about seeing their Medicare benefits decrease, but it’s a little harder to appreciate why it is that cutting spending on the latest fighter jet or whatever is just as unpopular. Glenn Greenwald explored that question, and while he’s coming at the question from a different perspective than most conservatives, it’s worthwhile to put the military spending numbers into context.
The reality is that our government is in or is approaching a dire fiscal situation. There is no part of the budget that should be protected (in the medium term) from spending freezes or cuts other than veterans’ entitlements.