I defer to Noam on the administration’s motives for announcing this spending freeze and on the real impact of the freeze on spending. But I want to say two things about it. First, if it was done to appease bond traders (where have we have heard that before?), it is ridiculous. Interest rates aren’t exactly soaring these days. It is not 1993. Second, whatever the administration’s motive--whether it was to appease bond traders or tea-partiers--and whether the effect on the actual budget is large or small, the administration’s announcement is an admission of abject failure. Obama was, after all, a professor, as were two of his main economic advisors, Larry Summers and Christina Romer, but in the past year, they have failed utterly to explain to Americans (let alone the bond traders) how deficits function in recessions. Yes, it is hard to do so, but no harder than it was for Ronald Reagan to explain to middle class Americans how regressive tax cuts would actually benefit them. For better or worse--and mostly the latter--Reagan actually tried to explain to Americans what his policies were about. The Obama administration has abdicated. Where are the charts? The graphs? The ads that patiently explain deficits and recessions? The stories, the anecdotes? And it’s not just the budget. It’s the health care plan as well. Or the need for financial regulation. Obama turns out to be a wonderful orator, but, to date, a lousy professor.
John B. Judis is the author of The Politics of Our Time: Populism, Nationalism and Socialism and, with Ruy Teixeira, the forthcoming Where Have All the Democrats Gone?