Free Markets, Free People


Obama And The “Hard Pivot”

President Obama is about to do what the pundits love to describe as a “hard pivot”. What that really means is he’s going to try to change th subject enough to divert attention from his troubles and give the impression he’s doing something for the people that they actually want. The first part of the hard pivot was his attack on banking and Wall Street. Meeting with a modicum of populist success there and in the wake of the message from Massachusetts, he’s decided it is now time to focus on jobs, the middle class and, of all things, spending.

Well sort of. He’s going to address run-away spending fostered by a Democratic Congress (don’t forget – its been a Democratic Congress for the last 4 years that has increased spending by $900 billion over the last 3 years) by asking for a 3 year spending freeze. Wait. A 3 year spending freeze on non-security discretionary spending.

Make sure you understand that. Congress is quietly trying to raise the debt ceiling another 1.9 trillion dollars and Mr. Obama decides for a symbolism over substance move to address the deficit spending. The result?

The payoff in budget savings would be small relative to the deficit: The estimated $250 billion in savings over 10 years would be less than 3 percent of the roughly $9 trillion in additional deficits the government is expected to accumulate over that time.

Or put another way, we will “save” less over 10 years than we’re presently running up a month in deficit spending.

Wow.

Don’t get me wrong here – any spending reduction is good news. But this spending cut – or spending freeze, because it isn’t really a cut – doesn’t at all address the problem of runaway deficit spending. It is another example of the smoke and mirrors for which this administration has become so famous. No one who is seriously concerned about the depth of our deficit spending habit is going to take this piddling $25 billion a year freeze on spending as a serious attempt to cut the deficit. This is a reaction to public concern over the debt. And while it may sound good to the uninformed in the State of the Union address, it is a trivial drop in the public spending bucket.

Obama likes to say that he doesn’t want to “kick the can down the road” when it comes to domestic issues. Well he’s not only kicking the can down the road when it comes to domestic deficit spending, he’s making it bigger too boot. While he’ll tout the “savings” on this end, the spending on the other end will increase dramatically.  You are required to “suspend disbelief”, ignore the increased spending and pretend this is an earnest attempt to reign in the deficit.

If he wants to be seen as serious about this, he can cancel the rest of the stimulus, which had done next to nothing to help relieve joblessness. He can ask Congress to cancel the omnibus spending bill which was passed earlier this year and return the money that hasn’t been spent. And he can return what is left of the TARP money to the Treasury. And if he’s really interested in not kicking the can down the road, he can address the real drains on the budget – Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. But we all know that’s not going to happen – in fact, he and the Democrats are trying to grow two of those three programs as we speak.

So while this will be described by the adoring media as part of that “hard pivot” to address the public’s concerns, it’s really a bone (and a tiny one at that) thrown to try to buy off those who really don’t pay close attention and to give the impression he’s serious about the deficit and the debt. Don’t be fooled – he’s serious about neither, and that’s been obvious since he was the junior Senator from Illinois. Nothing has changed since he ascended to the presidency.

~McQ

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18 Responses to Obama And The “Hard Pivot”

  • I can hear the speeches now.

    “I saved or created $25 billion”   while the deficit quadruples in one year what the Bush budget deficits were.

  • This is predictable, just like the SOTU speech will be hailed:  ‘he’s heard the people; it’s a massive pivot; eloquent, he’s on his game; he’s heard the thunder’  blah blah blah.

    • And with real unemployment @ 22% or so, they’ll conclude – as they do now – that our young godling is reall an empty suit

  • Frankly, it’s going to be, most likely, the Chinese who will decide if this is really enough.
    They are “supposed” to buy the still huge debt.  When they “vote” with their “purse” it will be too late.

  • This is no different from promising to cut the deficit in half after it ballooned to four times the previous deficit (which itself was already very large).  Deficit reductions and targeted spending freezes are political tools that are used to try and calm the electorate.  They make it seem as if you are actually doing something other than treading water (or worse).  I just don’t think that Obama has enough credibility left with voters to make this work.

  • Fallen by the way side on the way to the battle field…those mandatory savings and cuts he demanded of each department?  Whatever happened to those?

    Oh?  What?  Well….heh…..

  • “Hard Pivot” – yeah, now he’s not blaming Bush, he’s blaming Congress – oh, and he made a ‘legitimate mistake’ when he said some stuff during the campaign that he didn’t manage to do – see, transparency, that happens at the White House, he’s done that!  Unless you want to see his records, or the bills that Congress sends to him for signing.
    Once Congress turns it over to you it could do the whole publish on the net for 5 days thing before it’s signed, you know, like he promised?
    Let me help out -
    “I’m going to make it impossible for Congressmen or lobbyists to slip Pork Barrel Projects or Corporate Welfare into laws when no one’s looking, because when I’m President meetings where laws are written will be more open to the public, no more secrecy…”
    Was that a legitimate error to promise that?
    “When there’s a bill that ends up on my desk as President, you the public will have 5 days to look on line…”
    Seems like a lot of legitimate errors were made, all in the course of one speech.
     

  • “Hard Pivot” – yeah, now he’s not blaming Bush, he’s blaming Congress – oh, and he made a ‘legitimate mistake’ when he said some stuff during the campaign that he didn’t manage to do – see, transparency, that happens at the White House, he’s done that!  Unless you want to see his records, or the bills that Congress sends to him for signing.
    Once Congress turns it over to you it could do the whole publish on the net for 5 days thing before it’s signed, you know, like he promised?
    Let me help out -
    “I’m going to make it impossible for Congressmen or lobbyists to slip Pork Barrel Projects or Corporate Welfare into laws when no one’s looking, because when I’m President meetings where laws are written will be more open to the public, no more secrecy…”
    Was that a legitimate error to promise that?
    “When there’s a bill that ends up on my desk as President, you the public will have 5 days to look on line…”
    Seems like a lot of legitimate errors were made, all in the course of one speech.
     

  • On his blog, Pethokoukis notes that:

    2) The freeze would use current spending levels, elevated to fight the recession, as a reference point. The stimulus gets locked in!

    Yup. Spending would be permanently jacked up. That’s not a freeze, that’s slush.

  • Thanks to the willing assistance of MiniTru, I think he’s getting (at least temporarily) what he wants: the APPEARANCE of being a deficit hawk:

    Washington Post and Boston Globe – Obama will propose 3-year freeze on federal spending

    CBS – Obama Economic Plan Seeks Budget Freeze

    New York Times - Obama to Seek Spending Freeze to Trim Deficits

    Los Angeles TimesObama to seek spending freeze, more aid to middle class

    CNN (remarkably balanced) – Obama’s spending freeze: Prudence or posturing?

    Reuters – Obama to seek three-year freeze on domestic spending

    These are headlines that Americans are seeing.  Will people believe them?  Or have they had so much smoke and mirrors from Washington lately that they’re innoculated to this sort of stunt?

    • “Propose”, “Seek”  – code for “I don’t expect to get this, but aren’t I wonderful for suggesting it, and those Republicans … Democrats … partisans (= secret code Republicans) in Congress stopped me! It’s all George Bush’s Fault!”

      • He gave himself a solid B+ for his job performance, so I guess he can now give himself a solid “A” for effort at reducing the deficit.

        Gee, I wish I could do stuff like that in MY job!

        • Well, consider the world met his expectations by awarding him a Noble Prize for being elected – virtually for his mere existence.  Why would he not think he deserves an “A” for thinking that  talking about a freeze is the same as actual effort?
          He’s a little old to be part of the “everyone wins, your self esteem is important” generation, but why not, it HAS been the model of much of his life.

  • Here’s where Obama didn’t put any foresight into this issue (or maybe he did).

    Even after the burn of Scott Brown, there’s no way this Congress will pass this bill.  We know it and Obama knows it.  So its an empty jester to make him look good to those that don’t follow closely.

    Here’s the problem.  He’s going to put a bill in front of a spend happy Congress that will underscore the Big Government Big Spending nature of this Congress when they shoot it down.

    He might may himself look a little better, but not as much as how much worse he’s going to make congress look. 

  • And here’s the hard pivot President himself, demonstrating why I started calling him President Imeme.
    You just can’t make stuff this good up.