President Barack Obama intends to propose a three-year freeze in spending that accounts for one-sixth of the federal budget—a move meant to quell rising voter concern over the deficit but whose practical impact will be muted.Is this proposal a step in the right direction? Yes, as far as it goes.
To attack the $1.4 trillion deficit, the White House will propose a three-year freeze on discretionary spending unrelated to the military, veterans, homeland security and international affairs, according to senior administration officials. Also untouched are big entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
But it's a baby step: only $250 billion saved over the coming decade. To make a real difference, cuts must focus on national defense, social security, and health care. These three are the largest components of the budget, and health care in particular is growing rapidly. Unless budget cuts tackle these items, they will have only minor impact.
In addition, most of the affected programs should actually be zeroed out, not just frozen at current levels; that would be a real start on fiscal responsibility.
Still, any restraint in spending is welcome. We will see if President Obama wields his veto pen if (when) Congress does not play along.