Would Obama's Spending Freeze Hit Energy and Environment Programs?


Photo via San Francisco Sentinel

You've likely heard the news by now that Obama has proposed a 3 year "spending freeze" to help shrink the deficit and to reign in the perception that he's a frivolous 'tax and spender'. The freeze would leave entitlement programs--Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security--and defense spending--veteran's benefits, military budget--unaffected (yes, despite the fact that those areas are home to the most bloat), but would make most other programs vulnerable. So what would this mean for programs dealing with energy and the environment? Is Obama going to shut down the EPA?
Sorry, mountaintop removal mining companies--no such luck. Details are still scarce about what this plan will entail specifically, but the administration has indicated that actually, other programs may be cut so environment and energy-related initiatives could get a boost. From the NY Times:

not all programs will be frozen, the administration officials said; many will be cut well below a freeze or eliminated to provide increases for programs that are higher priorities for the administration in areas like education, energy, the environment and health.
So what, exactly will Obama taking a hatchet to--instead of using his scalpel, as he famously said while mocking John McCain's idea for a spending freeze just over a year ago? It's anyone's guess at this point. The Times report indicates that there will be some losers (farm subsidies, air traffic control [!]), but it's all speculative at this point.

In fact, when I was reading the Times' report, I couldn't hep but think--this isn't actually a spending freeze, it's just a series of unpleasant budget reductions with a big name. And alas, I got to the purpose of the whole debacle:

one administration official said that limiting the much smaller discretionary domestic budget would have symbolic value. That spending includes lawmakers' earmarks for parochial projects, and only when the public believes such perceived waste is being wrung out will they be willing to consider reductions in popular entitlement programs, the official said.
It's also worth noting that the entire thing would only save some $250 billion over the course of 3 years, or 3% of the projected deficit. Also, Congress would have to approve such a freeze. We'll have to wait and see how it plays out, but it seems like Obama is simply trying to sell himself as frugal to the skeptical Independent voters, the likes of which elected Scott Brown to the senate. We'll see how that works out--and what happens, if anything, to funding for energy and environment programs.

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Tags: Barack Obama | Congress | United States

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