The recently announced spending freeze is another indication of just how confused President Obama is when it comes to his economic agenda for America.
Every serious economist (i.e those who predicted the economic crisis) thinks it is a seriously bad idea. Reducing spending during a severe recession is the perfect way of exacerbating the problem and prolonging the suffering, particularly for those at the lower end of the economic spectrum.
The fiscal hawks obsessed with deficits don't actually care about deficits. They care about where precious government money goes, and mostly whether they get it during hard times. It was fine to rack up a giant bill when it came to the banks, but not when it comes to providing education for children or providing welfare to those trying to survive the worst job market in 80 years. Supporting the banking bailout and not the stimulus package highlights how deeply corrupt mainstream politicians are in America. The state, as they see it, is there to protect the interests of the rich, and the poor can simply lump it. There are a few pundits who genuinely believe that cutting the deficit should be a national priority, mostly intellectuals, and mostly without any practical understanding of economics. Their beliefs are based on theory, and as recent events have shown, it isn't a particularly good one.
Obama, I'm sure, is well aware of this. And it makes it ever more perplexing as to why he would pull a stupid move like this when he really doesn't have to.
The promise of a spending freeze has been injected into his State of the Union speech to try and appease fiscal conservatives. Although the details are vague, we do know that there will be no military spending cuts or anything defense related. He's proposing a tax cut for the middle classes and hopes to pass his health care bill in the near future. So the cuts must only effect the poor -- those least able to cope without precious government dollars that provide essential services.
The spending cuts will appeal to a small minority of conservatives. The rest simply won't give a damn. Obama, as far as they are concerned, is a black, Muslim, terrorist, Marxist, and they wouldn't support him even if he pledged to arm every unborn fetus in America.
It is an unnecessary concession, much like the acquiescence on healthcare before the debate even began. Obama, again, has been negotiating with himself.
If he is to withstand the coming weeks after the monumental failure in Massachusetts and the potential collapse of health care reform, Obama must stop trying to please everyone.
And that means forgetting about those who didn't vote for him and remembering those who did.