Norm Coleman’s Economic Agenda: Pay Raises and Spending Freezes?

The Wonk Room and ThinkProgress have already documented Sen. Norm Coleman’s (R-MN) embrace of the Neo-Hooverist agenda, after he said that his “plan” to tackle the economic crisis is to “balance the budget in 5 years” and install a variety of spending cuts and freezes.

Last night, during a debate on Minnesota Public Radio (MPR), Coleman doubled down on the Neo-Hoover line when he was asked which item on his agenda he would sacrifice due to the financial crisis. The only “agenda item” that Coleman was able to come up with was congressional pay raises, but he was quick to advocate a five-year spending freeze:

Coleman: You can start with congressional raises. You can put a cap on spending for five years. […]

Moderator: So is there anything that you would be willing to give up in light of the financial situation facing the nation?

Coleman: I’ll give up my raise.

This answer is interesting on two fronts. First, it would appear that Coleman is saying congressional pay raises are part of his platform, though Bob Collins of MPR noted “Technically, I don’t think a raise for himself was on his agenda.” Also, in September, “when a supporter suggested he should push Congress to take no pay increase or per diem increase for the next four years to show solidarity with struggling Americans,” Coleman said members of Congress “deserve a reasonable pay raise but not special treatment.”


The far more important point, though, is that Coleman has not backed down from his spending freeze, even though a host of economists, budget analysts, academics, and lawmakers have said that now is not the time to chill government spending. Indeed, Harvard economist Martin Feldstein wrote last week that “the only way to prevent a deepening recession will be a temporary program of increased government spending.”

Today, in the Washington Post, Robert Rubin and Jared Bernstein became the latest to join the chorus:

[W]e both agree that our economic future also requires public investment in critical areas like education, health care, energy, worker training and much else. […] [C]ertain public investment can help us meet our fiscal challenges.

Will Norm Coleman come around to supporting increased infrastructure spending, or will he continue to cling to the Hoover agenda?