Posted by Brad @ 12:53 pm on November 29th 2010

Today in Useless Budgetary Posturing…

The federal government, finally serious about fiscal solvency, reforms medicare grapples with social security scales back the American empire puts defense spending on the table decentralizes non-essential governance freezes the pay of federal workers.

In related news, Republicans in Congress, wanting to show Americans who voted for them this year in the basis of fiscal responsibility that they’re super-serious, did at last ban earmarks*.

*Earmarks defined here as spending tangential to already tangential discretionary spending**.

**unless it’s deemed important by the member requesting it***.

***such as transportation projects for Michelle Bachmann, money to Indian tribes for John Kyl, or anything related to Savannah for Saxby Chambliss.****

****Basically, anything that a member declares is not an earmark shall, for purposes of the earmark freeze, not be considered an earmark.*****

*****so really, any earmark is not, in fact, an earmark, by definition. But don ‘t worry – we banned earmarks******! Hooray for limited government fiscal conservatism!

******(for a year******* , anyway.)

*******(year does not start until after the lame duck session concludes.)


  1. Freezing the pay of Federal workers is a pretty essential step. They can’t do it indefinitely, but I’m bemused to find their pay wasn’t already frozen or cut, frankly.

    Comment by Adam — 11/29/2010 @ 7:53 pm

  2. Because Obama proposed it, Sullivan is portraying it as a two-year spending freeze, and as a trump to any possible Republican claims of fiscal discipline.

    Of course, CATO proposed it first, so we can no doubt expect a Nation expose on how Obama is in the Kochs’ pocket at any moment.

    Comment by Rojas — 11/29/2010 @ 8:58 pm

  3. Well, let’s be sure and note the caveats:

    Would not apply to the military
    would not apply to members of Congress or their staffs
    Would not apply to members of the judiciary or their staffs.
    Would not apply to the United States Postal Service.
    Would not apply to contractors.
    Will not impact regular step increases or bonuses

    Near as I can figure, it’s not a freeze per se, just a two-year delay on cost-of-living adjustments for the salaries of only executive branch employees. Making it not at all the same as the CATO proposal, which really meant freeze freeze – no raises, no step increases, no promotions, no benefits increases, no carve-out for the majority of federal workers. All those things still happen here. This is a COLA freeze.

    If this is the opening salvo in a larger commitment, then fine. But I’m starting to get the feeling that both actors are doing the bare minimum here. Republicans talk about scaling back the socialist state, and their #1 agenda item coming in on a wave is…earmarks. Obama has a deficit commission that gets out in front of him by leaking how systemic our changes would have to be, and he tries to get out in front again by proposing…a temporary COLA freeze. Next up….waste fraud and abuse!

    Although, I wrote that last line and, quite literally ten seconds later, came up on the Republican COUNTER proposal to Obama’s freeze. From Rep. Darrel Issa, ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform:

    “At a time when our nationís seniors have been denied a cost-of-living-increase and private sector hiring is stagnant, it is both necessary and quite frankly, long over-due to institute a pay-freeze for the federal workforce. As Republicans outlined in our Pledge to America there are a number of actions the President and Congress should immediately act on to demonstrate a real commitment to reigning in the excessive growth and spending of the federal government.

    “To put this in perspective, the Obama Administration says this two-year pay freeze will save $2 billion, however, just last week, OMB released a report revealing that the federal governmentís improper payments for FY-2010 totaled $125 billion, $15 billion higher than the previous year. It is unthinkable that we have come to accept having a bureaucracy that has institutionalized waste, fraud and abuse to the point where $125 billion in improper payments were made last year. The first place we should look to make progress on higher costs, increased debt and a stagnant economy is look inward at how taxpayer dollars are being spent and doing more to ensure that tens of billions of dollars are no longer erroneously paid out.”

    So there you have it. The great fiscal responsibility cop-out trifecta.

    Comment by Brad — 11/30/2010 @ 10:30 am

  4. I should add that there is nothing inherently BAD about any of these things, and to varying extents all are very small but necessary eventual steps to tackle spending. But they are almost quite literally the bottom run on the “necessary but not sufficient” ladder, which is precisely why they’re chosen. It smacks to me not as a revving up the engines so much as a going through the motions.

    This Dailykos Diarist gets it:

    And with that symbolic gesture we witness President Obama’s unfortunate alter-ego, President Gimmick. President Gimmick isn’t serious about solving any of our problems, he’s only serious about demonstrating his desire to solve our problems.[…]

    Confronted with the choice between making the tough decision to defend federal spending during a recession or to develop a plan to actually slash spending, President Gimmick takes a third way: pretending to do something. In the process, he concedes that he believes his critics are right on the merits, but far from signaling strength, he signals that he’s too weak to do anything serious about it.

    Again, I’ve had high hopes for Obama on fiscal responsibility, and with the deficit commission was fairly convinced he would pivot to an agenda centered around making a stab at fiscal solvency. But just the back-and-forth between the political classes on this right now is giving me a distinctly same-old same-old feel.

    Comment by Brad — 11/30/2010 @ 10:37 am

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