Liberals have sweepingly slammed President Obama's proposed three-year freeze on many domestic programs. The White House had to foresee this reaction: in March 2009, Congressional Republicans proposed their own spending freeze, to similarly harsh reaction. The two plans are distinct, of course. But the motivation--to appease fiscal conservatives with spending cuts--and the ensuing backlash are similar.
In March, that backlash included two of American politics' most influential pundits: Nobel-winning liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and popular-with-everyone moderate New York Times columnist David Brooks. Krugman compared Congressional Republicans to "Beavis and Butthead," writing:
I'm as cynical as they come. Even so, I’m shocked by the total intellectual collapse of the Republican Party in the face of this economic crisis. [...] But it’s getting truly serious when the House minority leader — essentially, the nation’s second-ranking Republican (after Rush Limbaugh) — declares that the answer to the economy’s downward spiral is a spending freeze. That’s not a retrogression to Herbert Hoover; even Hoover knew better than that.
David Brooks took a similar, and similarly harsh, tone on ABC's "This Week":
[Republicans] are stuck with the idea that government is always the problem. A lot of Republicans up in Capitol Hill right now are calling for a spending freeze in a middle of a recession/depression. That is insane. But they are thinking the way they thought in 1982, if we can only think that way again, that is just insane. And there are a lot of Republicans like David Frum ... who are trying to say Reagan was right for his era, but it is time to move on. And there are just not a lot of them on Capitol Hill right now, and I think the party is looking for that kind of Republican.
Brooks has yet to weigh in on Obama's spending freeze proposal. But Krugman has already denounced it with the same fury he did in March, appraising, "Obama Liquidates Himself."
It's appalling on every level. It’s bad economics, depressing demand when the economy is still suffering from mass unemployment. [...] It’s bad long-run fiscal policy, shifting attention away from the essential need to reform health care and focusing on small change instead. And it's a betrayal of everything Obama’s supporters thought they were working for.
Will Brooks feel as strongly? His next column is Friday--we'll find out then.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.