Posted by: Jeff | January 26, 2010

The Morality of the Freeze

In my previous post on this subject, I said that it was questionable whether the freeze would have any kind of significant effect, positive or negative, on the recession. I feel the need to point out, however, that there is a big difference between affecting the recession for the country as a whole and affecting the recession for the poor specifically.

Not spending $100 billion over three years isn’t that big a deal in terms of the overall federal budget or the overall economy. But in terms of the non-defense discretionary spending that goes to help the poor, it’s actually a pretty significant chunk of change. And as the posts by Ezra Klein that Joe and I have been referencing point out, political incentives will likely drive Congress to disproportionately target programs which assist the poor. And of course, it is the poor who are hurt during a recession more than anyone.

Long story short, there’s a strong likelihood the spending freeze would screw the poor in order to give Obama populist political cover. So from a technocratic or political standpoint, it’s questionable how objectionable this freeze would be. But from a moral standpoint, it’s another matter entirely.

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