Previews of tonight's State of the Union address have turned up evidence that President Barack Obama will propose to freeze the national budget at current levels, with exceptions for defense and security spending.
It should come as no surprise that there are already some Republicans who object to this proposal. Following the will of the Tea Party, who share some credit for GOP success in the 2010 elections, many Republicans are already calling for deep spending cuts, even in job-creating sectors like clean energy and infrastructure. Many organizations have been quick to point out that these cuts will hurt education, veterans, scientific research, cities and states.
On the surface this sounds like a sound political gambit. Obama is pulling a card from the Clinton deck - triangulation between the wishes of his base for an active and progressive government and the ambitions of his opposition to shrink government to the point where all of its functions can be devolved to the private sector.
It is a good compromise, in my opinion. Budget cuts may cost a fragile recovery the few jobs it has successfully created. However, it is a dangerous game to freeze spending. There is a need for government sponsored growth in some areas, while cuts would be more welcome in defense and security spending where the Bush-era Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Safety Administration represent the greatest extension of federal and executive power in the history of the United States.
The two wars that Obama inherited also take up billions of our tax dollars every year, more than enough to build a high speed rail system and/or provide a single payer health care system with equal benefits to the vast majority of American workers. Furthermore, despite the best efforts of Donald Rumsfeld to streamline our military, Obama also inherits armed forces still deployed throughout the world in a manner more befitting a cold war that ended 27 years ago. Perhaps the best way to save the American people some money and trim the federal budget would be to cut defense spending first.
Obama is making a smart move. He seemingly appeases the desires of his opposition without breaking another promise to his electorate. My personal belief is that his recent bump in polls will give him an opportunity to be more aggressive in his speech tonight than the GOP expects, setting up an interesting battle between the two parties as the 2012 election season looms on the horizon.