Hyper-timid incrementalist Senator Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) gave his budget peacock legs a strut this past Sunday, accusing "far left-wing blogs" of criticizing the administration's proposed spending freeze. But this is a tidy talking point that obscures the fact that plenty of economists don't think the spending freeze is a good idea, and plenty of liberals don't think the freeze is austere enough.
BAYH: If you look, I suspect [Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.)] does not, but if you look at the far left-wing blogs and that kind of thing they're severely criticizing the president for being too fiscally austere. My own take on this, Paul is right. Domestic discretionary spending increased last year. I voted against the omnibus, I voted against the "minibus" and that's last year. the question is where do we go now? The freeze is important. He identified $20 billion if you aggregate over the next ten years is $250 billion less spending. Does it solve all our problems? No. But it's a step in the right direction.
Well, look. Maybe when you're Evan Bayh and the time is right and the right scent is in the air and the moon is hitting your eye like a big pizza pie, you can just write off the criticisms of Paul Krugman, Brad DeLong, Mark Thoma and Robert Reich as the natterings of "left-wing bloggers" and not as the considered opinion of economists with excellent track records. But here's Mark Zandi -- definitively not a left-wing blogger of any kind -- attributing what success the economy has had to stimulus spending.
As Brad Johnson further points out, a lot of the criticism that the spending freeze is taking from the "left" has nothing to do with the spending freeze's austerity. Rather, it is the lack thereof:
Additionally, part of why progressives are criticizing Obama about is not that the spending freeze is too "austere," but that it doesn't go after defense spending. As Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Lawrence Korb has argued, "If President Obama is serious about controlling spending, he can't exempt the Pentagon." And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) concurs, telling reporters that the entire defense budget "should not be exempted" from the freeze.
Meanwhile, we have Bayh, pretending to be serious about budgets and fiscal deficits. How about he makes a show of good faith here and assists the cause of austerity by giving some of the money he's taken credit for bringing to Indiana back?