One of the things I admired about the Obama campaign was that it held out the promise that Americans were capable of having adult conversations about what our government does, and about how our political culture ought to behave. In essence, Obama offered voters a chance to "hate the game" of Washington politics and promised to change the game to something more ... pleasant. But the more I think about this spending freeze proposal, especially in the context of Obama's responses during the Presidential debates, it seems to be that Team Obama has given up on that project. It's hard to see how we do a lot of weatherization or modernizing our electrical grid without plussing up government spending. So the health care bill, if it passes, will be the first and last major expansion of progressive policy, unless some sort of "cap-and-dividend" approach is taken on climate change.
Now, maybe I'm wrong about this, or maybe this is all kabuki and Obama doesn't expect Congress to abide by the spending freeze, or maybe this will occupy all of 30 seconds of SOTU while he spends ten minutes on weatherization. But at the moment Obama seems to have decided to cede the ideological ground gained during the late Bush years back to conservatives even if conservative governance has been discredited as an ideology that sounds good on paper but which runs square into reality in practice.