The Corner

Re: A Budget Freeze and an Earmark Ban

It seems that, instead of freezing spending at its $3.8 trillion level, he will propose something similar to what he proposed last year, a freeze in non-security discretionary spending. According to the Mid-Session Review, that represents roughly 15 percent of the budget or $528 billion in FY2010 (outlays; the budget-authority figure is smaller). For 2011, the amount is $544 billion (outlays again) or 14.6 percent of the budget. Needless to say, we won’t get very far in the savings department under this plan.

Also, while earmarks  are bad economics and policy because they generate more spending, focusing on earmarks in the State of the Union shows that the president is listening to the GOP but doesn’t demonstrate that he is serious about addressing the spending issue — it’s a sign that he is thinking small on saving rather than looking at the big picture. I would be happy to see earmarks go away, but they are a distraction from the real issue. At the end of the day, we could eliminate earmarks and still only be talking about 1 percent of the budget. Entitlements, defense, and interest on the debt are where the big dollars are, and the president is unlikely to talk about those areas.

But we’ll know soon enough, right?

Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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