Progressives protest any curbs on federal spending

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama’s progressive allies are working to portray any slowdown in federal spending as “austerity” that will damage economic growth.

That pitch contrasts with free-market advocates, who say the federal government’s increased spending is choking investment and entrepreneurship.

The economy is “marked by mass unemployment, rising poverty, and declining wages… [and] the fragile recovery is threatened by obsessive concern with cutting deficits that has infected both parties,” claimed a coalition of economists organized by Robert Borosage, co-director of the Institute for America’s Future.

The pitch is intended to sway public opinion and politicians as D.C. insiders grapple with the synchronized arrival of tax-increase and spending cuts, which threaten to create another recession by sucking a huge amount of spending from the economy.

The various tax increases and spending cuts were scheduled by a series of negotiations between Democrats and Republicans, when both sides agreed to postpone difficult fiscal decisions until after the election.

On Tuesday, Obama met with several progressive leaders to win their support during the pending negotiations.

The meeting included some progressives who have opposed any curbs on spending in the fast-growing Medicaid, Social Security and Medicare programs.

The progressives who met with Obama include Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, and Rich Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO.

Also included were Neera Tanden, who heads the Center for American Progress, Max Richtman, CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and Deepak Bhargava, director of the Center for Community Change.

However, these progressive leaders are willing to accept cuts that help the progressive coalition.

For example, few progressives opposed the $716 billion cut over 10 years to the Medicare program spending required by the 2010 Obamacare law. That cut helped Obamacare’s progressive advocates mollify the public’s worry about the massive cost of increasing government control over the nation’s health-care sector.

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