COMMENTARY | President Obama announced Friday at the White House that he intends to ask Congress for the power to merge redundant government agencies, in an effort to trim government bureaucracy and save an estimate $3 billion over 10 years. At stake are about a thousand jobs in several agencies that collectively represent the interests of small and medium businesses abroad.
$3 billion over 10 years seems a lofty sum to the average American taxpayer, but it’s really just an extravagant way of stating the actual yearly average savings of $300 million per year, carried over a 10-year period. We see this sort of crafty wordplay from both the President and from Congress with increasing frequency these days, and most of us are seeing it for what it is: a means by which to promise savings now that actually take no immediate effect, and are back-loaded toward the end of the 10-year period.
To put things in perspective, $300 million is about what it took to produce the 2009 James Cameron film Avatar, and accounts for about 0.008 percent of the $3.5 trillion in spending allowed for under the 2012 federal budget.
Why is President Obama proposing these changes now, in the fourth year of a presidency that is known for the most profligate spending by any administration in American history? The answer is twofold: because it’s an election year, and because he promised in his State of the Union Address of 2011 that he would take steps to cut fat from the government hog. He’s counting on the very real probability that his failure to do so until this lackluster fourth-quarter effort will be lost on many American voters in November.
With this announcement, President Obama can now claim to carry the banner for what has traditionally been known as a Republican cause. Cutting wasteful government spending is set to be a hot issue this election year, for Republicans and Democrats alike. As much as the Republican majority in the House would probably like to oppose the President’s new cost-cutting plan, I expect the measure to sail through Congress. Opposition to cuts in government spending in any area other than social or entitlement programs is simply not politically viable this year.
I believe strongly in giving credit where it’s due, and this is no exception. If this is the first of many such announcements, I say good for you, Mr. President. However, spending cuts will have to go far, far deeper than this to have any meaningful impact. If this is the only measure we’ve got coming down the pike, I’ll have to pass it off for what I suspect it really is: more fodder for election year talking points.
The Washington Post
Official Budget Page at whitehouse.gov