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Freeze, Like a Deer in Headlights | The Nation

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Christopher Hayes

Christopher Hayes

Nation editor-at-large and host of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes.

Freeze, Like a Deer in Headlights

There's lots of progressive backlash in the blogosphere to the announcement that the president is going to call for a multi-year freeze on "non-security discretionary spending," in the State of the Union.

The anger is totally justified, but I'll let others handle the policy of this. (Short version: it's criminally stupid).

But let me talk about the politics. I'm sure that in the short term it polls well. Most voters don't have a great grasp of what makes up the federal budget and the fact that about two-thirds of what the government does is security and social insurance for the elderly. Thanks to decades of right-wing attacks on Big Government, many people think that most of what the government spends money on are things like food stamps and foreign aid.

That's why this is so inexcusably insidious: because it uses the full power of the bully pulpit to reaffirm and endorse a kind of ignorance that the right-wing has spent years stoking, and in so doing further erodes what little conceptual and rhetorical foundation we have domestically for social democracy. It may be a head fake, the fine print may basically have a lot of loopholes, in which case the policy itself won't be terrible, but again it reinforces the enemy's narrative: that government spends too much on "programs," that defense and "security" spending doesn't count for the deficit and that times of economic misery and widespread unemployment the solution is fiscal austerity.

I wish there was a way to sue for political malpractice, because what we're seeing from the White House and congressional Democrats these last two weeks would make for a depressingly good case.

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