Friday, June 18, 2010
In its latest attempt to mitigate public outrage over out-of-control government growth, the administration of President Barack Obama has instructed a handful of federal agencies to cut their budgets by five percent.
That’s right – after trillions of dollars in deficit spending, several multi-billion dollar bailouts and a costly socialized medicine proposal, Obama now believes he can cast himself in the role of “cost-cutter.” How convenient. Five months before an election that could dramatically alter the balance of power in Washington, D.C., Obama and his congressional allies apparently think they can change public opinion by handing a few pennies back to the taxpayers they’ve mugged to the tune of trillions of dollars.
Of course despite the best efforts of the legacy media to perpetuate this scam, the reality is that Obama isn’t cutting anything – not a dime. In fact, his budget office is calling for the so-called “savings” accrued from these “cuts” to be pumped into additional government growth. Frankly, that makes this nothing more than an over-hyped transfer of funds.
“We are asking each agency to develop a list of their bottom five percent performing discretionary programs, as measured by their impact in furthering the agency’s mission,” White House budget director Peter Orszag said in announcing the plan. “In addition, to ensure that we can meet the president’s absolute insistence on a freeze for non-security agencies while funding priority areas, we are asking non-security agencies to specify how they would reduce their budgets by five percent.”
Obviously this isn’t the first time that Obama has employed such gimmickry in an effort to convince the public that he’s actually concerned about their bottom line.
In January – a week after Sen. Scott Brown’s epic upset in Massachusetts – Obama proposed his federal “spending freeze,” although it didn’t take long for voters to realize that the spending to be “frozen” amounted to less than one-sixth of the federal budget. The “freeze” also failed to address bailouts, runaway entitlement spending and interest on America’s ballooning debt.
Earlier this month U.S. Rep. John Spratt (D-South Carolina) introduced the so-called “Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act of 2010” at the behest of the Obama administration, a bill which basically fast-tracks presidential spending vetoes. Of course that legislation assumes Obama actually meets a spending item he doesn’t like and that the U.S. House actually passes a budget (which it has failed to do this year).
Speaking of the House, when the public first began to unite in opposition to Obama’s fiscal recklessness last April, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered Congressional Democrats to “conduct rigorous oversight of all aspects of federal spending and government operations to help achieve deficit reduction and long-term fiscal responsibility.”
Specifically, Pelosi demanded that hearings into “waste, fraud and abuse” be held, and that specific programs be targeted for elimination.
What came of this high-profile effort? Absolutely nothing. In fact, when questioned about the progress of the initiative a year later the Speaker’s office “declined to specify what recommendations Pelosi received from the various committees; whether every committee submitted a list of proposed budget cuts; how the recommendations she did receive were selected or ignored; and how much in savings was identified.”
In other words, it was all smoke and mirrors.
If Obama and his allies were serious about cutting spending, here are a few ideas: They could rescind the estimated $300 billion currently sitting in the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) fund. They could axe a proposed $23 billion public employee bailout. They could refrain from putting taxpayers on the hook for as much as $165 billion to bail out union pension funds. Finally, they could stop wasting billions each year by insisting that Amtrak become self-sufficient, a goal it was supposed to have achieved in the 1980s – and then again in 2003.
On a smaller scale, Obama might consider refraining from spending $70 million on a shrine to former Senator Ted Kennedy – which includes $20 million taken directly from the Defense Department budget.
Of course those decisions would involve prioritizing government functions and perhaps even reaching the determination that there are certain things government shouldn’t do – concepts that have historically been anathema in Washington D.C. no matter which party is in charge.
Howard Rich is chairman of Americans for Limited Government.
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See Other Commentary by Howard Rich
Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports.
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