The Folly of the Freeze


In his State of the Union address, President Obama proposed a five-year spending freeze to address the ballooning deficit. Some conservatives might consider this to be a baby step in the right direction, but I reject it outright. There are several fundamental problems with the proposal.

First, Obama assumes that current spending levels in various government agencies are appropriate, more or less. But current levels evolved from previous profligate Congressional spending, most notably that in the last Congress. If Republicans accept the notion of a freeze, then they are passing on an opportunity to reassess the entire budget.

Second, like most budget freeze proposals, Obama’s proposal exempts a big chunk of the budget. In reality, the President’s initiative addresses only nonsecurity, discretionary spending, about 15% of the total budget. This is more about symbolism than substance because total spending is guaranteed to rise.

Finally, the notion of a freeze ignores the historical pattern that underlies budget deficits. Liberals are constantly calling for more spending, whether to turn around a struggling economy or–as Obama put it–to foster innovation and competitiveness. The net effect over time has been a constant and substantial growth in government. Tax increases are never enough to solve the problem because more spending lies around the corner.

The truth is simple. The national debt is a spending problem, not a tax problem. The only way to resolve it is to CUT spending. In the absence of a sophisticated agency-by-agency proposal, perhaps a 20% across the board cut might make sense for starters. Members of Congress could propose further cuts in some agencies and possible increases in others AFTER the new, lower agency baselines are implemented.

In the end, it’s all about CUTTING, NOT FREEZING. This is real change we can believe in.



  1. Gerald Harrison  •  Jan 26, 2011 @2:08 PM

    Ther might be some things we can cut but not 20%. A lot of people depend on the government and this would be too deep. Obama is trying to compromise and the republicans need to work with him to get anything done. A freeze is the best we can do, and the rest will need to come from tax increases. There’s no other way.

  2. KK  •  Jan 26, 2011 @3:25 PM

    Agreed Gerald, compromise is the key, its the best we can get and it moves us forward. The message of the election was that the people want congress and Obama to get things done. It takes Rs and Ds working together

  3. Chris  •  Jan 26, 2011 @6:24 PM

    Compromise got us where we are today, except for the last two years when there was none at all, and that was even worse. I think if we look at the growth in spending in the last several years, a 20% cut is probably an actual increase over what it used to be a few short years ago. 20% may be high for some folks, but we need to pick a number other than zero. Spending is out of control, and freezing something that is out of control is no gain. Tax increases…maybe…but only if those increases are designed to attack the deficit and the debt. Historically, whenever there’s a tax increase, they always find some way to spend it on something new, so what makes anybody think that’ll work. Until the Congress grows the stones to address the biggest gorillas in the room of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, we’ll continue on a downward track towards bankrupsy. As we get closer, whose checks stop first?

  4. jeffo  •  Jan 26, 2011 @7:38 PM

    Tax increases are a drain on the economy. You cannot tax your way out of trouble. This is a fundamental point. It is also a moral point, but that is another story for another day.

    Even if we took spending levels back 10 years, we would survive just fine. No one was starving in the streets then. We have all gotten too pampered and lazy. We do not need all this government spending. That is just a flat out canard.