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July 25, 2013 10:59 AM This Is Nondefense Discretionary Spending

By Ed Kilgore

So the next stop in the president’s economy speech tour will be in Jacksonville, Florida, where he is expected to talk about the obstruction of infrastructure investments by congressional Republicans, as reported by The Hill’s Justin Sink:

Obama will continue to target the GOP in his speech Thursday, according to a White House official.
“While in Jacksonville, the president will continue to talk about the cornerstones of middle-class security and discuss specifically how the House Republican budget approach poses a risk to the progress we’ve made in each area, including jobs, education, housing, and healthcare,” the official said.
The White House chose the port as the site of the speech because it is home to two projects — a container terminal and a rail yard — that the administration expedited last year as part of a broader infrastructure push.
“Expediting permitting projects through executive action is just one example of how the president can and will act through his own authority to promote our economic progress, while still pushing Congress to pass legislation to grow the economy and create jobs,” the White House official said.

That’s all well and good, and the speech will probably draw even more media dismissals as the same old same old than did yesterday’s Knox College speech.

But I do hope the president takes the time to point out as clearly as possible that transportation and other infrastructure investments are a prime example of “non-defense discretionary spending,” that segment of the federal budget that is so often de-prioritized by liberals and savaged by conservatives. A detailed explanation of how the sequester procedure is likely to affect infrastructure projects in Florida down the road would be particularly useful right now. So long as conservatives are able to describe sequestration as a “haircut” or suggest it will simply force desirable efficiencies, they’ll be in a position to claim “real” spending reductions will require additional cuts. Indeed, that’s what they are about to do in the upcoming fiscal debates of September.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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