The Best Economic Attack Obama isn't Using Against McCain

11/14/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Did you know that John McCain has proposed a real cut in spending on:

  • breast cancer research
  • children's health
  • student loans
  • early childhood education
  • funding to help poor people pay their energy bills
  • loans to small businesses
  • solar energy
  • the national parks
  • all biomedical research
  • unemployment benefits
  • infrastructure projects, such as fixing roads and bridges
  • Food Stamps
  • hurricane forecasting and flood control?
He has. In fact, these cuts are a centerpiece of his economic plan. As his "Jobs for America" plan spells out, McCain calls for:

A one-year spending pause. Freeze non-defense, non-veterans discretionary spending for a year and use those savings for deficit reduction.

He loves this terrible idea so much he has introduced it in both debates. Yes, McCain doesn't merely propose senseless and heartless policies, he actually believes in them deeply. Time for the Obama team to pounce. The only attack I've heard from Obama was in the first debate, when he said:

The problem with a spending freeze is you're using a hatchet where you need a scalpel. There are some programs that are very important that are under funded. I want to increase early childhood education and the notion that we should freeze that when there may be, for example, this Medicare subsidy doesn't make sense.

Great metaphor, using a hatchet instead of a scalpel. But it is Obama who needs to be taking a hatchet to this idea in TV ads. The vast majority of the American people, especially independents, do not support most of those cuts. And they are cuts. If they weren't cuts, they wouldn't reduce spending. They allow inflation to reduce the impact of these vital programs -- programs that are even more important during a recession and during a time when the country is at grave risk of falling behind the rest of the world.

McCain's position is as politically indefensible as it is counterproductive. And McCain's team has left him very little wiggle room. Ike Brannon, an economist and senior policy adviser to McCain, told the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation in mid-September that "there's been no talk within the campaign of allowing any flexibility in the proposed freeze," as reported in a Science magazine article, "McCain Freeze Would Chill Science."

Scientists get this. Now it's time for the public to get this and that can happen only if Obama surrogates and Obama ads repeatedly bring it up. The beauty of this attack is that along with being factually accurate, it can be targeted toward different groups -- women, the young, independents (who tend to care about science and clean energy), outdoors-men and -women, and so on. It gives Obama an opening to trash McCain's whole approach to the economy. Heck, they can use the headline in the Science article.

Obama should also be ready for this Wednesday night since McCain may well (proudly) bring up this spending freeze once again. Yes, hit McCain on early childhood education, since Head Start helps 900,000 children, but pick a couple of other examples too. McCain's freeze would permit inflation to eat away at

That is heartless and senseless.

One last point, if Obama or a surrogate gets asked for the umpteenth time whether the bailout is going to force him to scale back on his priorities, he should answer:

The rescue plan is not a government giveaway. It is an investment in the future of our country. We are taking a stake in financial companies and in home mortgages. With my economic recovery plan and my economic team, I am confident the economy will get back on track after 8 years of failed leadership and failed economic theories from George Bush and John McCain.

An Obama administration will restore confidence in the US economy. And once we are back on track for economic growth, housing values will start rising. In an Obama administration, taxpayers are going to back all the money they invested in this effort. So I don't think the rescue plan will require me to scale back on priorities. I remain as committed as ever to my core priorities of energy independence, health care for all Americans, and investment in education.

In general, I think the Obama team has developed a strong and effective messaging both on their positive vision for the future and the counterpunching message about McCain's

McCain Parachutes into Temperament Narrative">erratic behavior and erratic campaign. But in the final days it is critical not to let McCain reenergize his campaign by advancing policies he claims will help the economy, when in fact they will hurt the economy.

The point is that John McCain's new economic proposals are as bad for Americans as his old economic proposals.