On Wednesday, the president will give his State of the Union speech. According to administration officials, a "major component" of the address will be a three-year freeze on domestic program spending. The president intends "to signal his seriousness about cutting the budget deficit."
The freeze will cover agencies and programs ranging "from air traffic control and farm subsidies to education, nutrition and national parks." Yet the freeze will "exempt the budget for the Pentagon, foreign aid, the Veterans Administration and Homeland Security" as well as "Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security."
As I read the outlines of this proposal (the details of which agencies and programs will be affected were not disclosed) some points immediately jump off the page.
It is hard to ignore the fact that this is a proposal to placate Conservatives and right-leaning Independents who are obsessed with the high level of government spending and the increasing deficit. What seems lost on these people is that in this severe "Great Recession" the need is for providing a safety net (food stamps, unemployment insurance and helping states retain jobs and spending for shovel-ready infrastructure projects).
Deficits can be dealt with down the road as the economy recovers, not while unemployment hovers over 10% (but really is in the 17% to 19% range when considering those who are working part-time jobs, but want full time work, those who have given up hope of finding a job and those who have exhausted their unemployment benefits). Why is the president all but ignoring his base? This is truly baffling.
But it is the sacrosanct defense budget that really rankles me. It is the bloated Pentagon budget (which today is larger than all the combined defense budgets of all countries in the world) that needs to be slashed.
Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda jihadist fanatics (including the various disparate and unaffiliated terrorists and insurgent groups that mimic al Qaeda tactics) do not constitute or rise to the level of threat that requires mobilizing vast armies and navies to fight this "War on Terrorism," as if they resembled the imperialist forces of Germany and Japan or of the defunct Soviet Union. Such needs died long ago with the end of the Cold War.
There is no justification for these outrageous defense expenditures. Defense spending is the real budget buster, not the domestic programs that actually benefit people and create economic opportunity.
Job creation and reducing the foreclosure crisis are two issues that should be primary foci for this president and his administration. Yet they seem to be given short shift with this pre-announced disclosure by administration officials of the president's address.
The "tea leaves" the president and his coterie are looking at are not going to improve his fortunes. No matter what he does to placate the right wing, it will fall on deaf ears or be denounced and rejected by them. Trying to pivot rightward (while ignoring the left) will lead him to his own "bridge to nowhere," and will result in the eventual fall of the president and those Democrats who accompany him.