I’ve made this point before, but Congressman Mike Pence is not a smart man. And really, strikingly so. And you can see this kind of dumbness coming through in this floor speech calling for a “spending freeze”:
One level of dumbness here is the indiscriminate nature. A member of congress who cared about public policy would presumably have some ideas about certain federal endeavors being more worthy than others. But Pence just wants to implement an arbitrary cut (in inflation-adjusted terms that’s what a “freeze” is) in all programs.
A second level of dumbness it his fake-incredulity about how the Democrats passed one spending bill and now they want to pass a second bill. Oh my dears! But the first bill was a stimulus measure, designed at offering a fiscal policy jolt to counteract the recession. The second bill is to fund the normal operations of the federal government. It’s not like there was some sleight-of-hand here and Obama was pretending that the stimulus bill was adequate to fund all the activities of the government. And they’re not coming one after another because the congress is crazy; the timing of the appropriations bill is dictated by the schedule.
But the third, and most pernicious, level of dumbness is its pro-cyclical neo-Hooverite nature. Pat Garofalo explains:
But under the current economic circumstances, this is a far more damaging policy then it was six months ago when McCain was touting it. The economic stimulus package’s main purpose is to close the GDP gap and jumpstart the economy by spurring spending by households, government and the private sector. A spending freeze would act as an “anti-stimulus,” cutting spending precisely when it’s too low and the economy is moving too slowly.
Yessir. Lay off an EPA lawyer amidst full employment, and he’ll find a job in the private sector. Stop pouring concrete on a road amidst robust growth, and the concrete will go to some other project. One can debate whether or not that’s a good tradeoff according to the specific situation. But that’s not the circumstances we face. Companies aren’t hiring. Lay off a government worker, and he’ll just be unemployed. And as an unemployed government worker, he’ll spend less at local stores leading to more layoffs in retail and more excess inventory in manufacturing. This kind of thing is how recessions become depressions.