The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

The First Cut Is The Lamest, Not The Deepest

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


In February, President Obama introduced a $3.69 trillion budget for the 2010 fiscal year, a proposal that would, according the Heritage Foundation, increase spending by $1 trillion over the next ten years, lead to a 12 percent increase in discretionary spending, and leave permanent deficits averaging $600 billion even after the economy recovers.  In a peace offering to get some political cover for this explosion of spending, President Obama called for his cabinet to make $100 million worth of spending cuts.  

To the average American, $100 million seems like a hefty chunk of change, but it is peanuts in comparison to the huge deficits the country now faces.  President Obama did not request that each agency cut $100 million (which would still be a meager amount, but at least a start).  He called for cutting $100 million across the board.  To put this in perspective, the President has asked department and agency heads to cut the equivalent of about 1/37,000th of this year’s budget plans.  Based on this year’s projected spending, Congressional Republicans estimated that it will take the federal government a grand total of 13 minutes to spend the $100 million they save.

Thus far, the White House has suggested having the Department of Education eliminate the distribution of desktop computers in favor of the less expensive laptops, transitioning the Department of Justice to a system of paperless forfeiture notifications, and making the Department of Homeland Security purchase office supplies in bulk.  It is a scary thought that these agencies actually need to be told to implement these obvious cost-cutting measures.

President Obama, who admitted that the $100 million is merely a drop in the bucket, stopped short of making real changes in Washington.  It is easy to trim a little fat from grossly bloated agency budgets.  But President Obama needs to tackle bigger problems.  In case he is not sure where to start, CAGW’s Prime Cuts 2009 contains 700 recommendations that would save taxpayers $269.9 billion in the first year and $1.9 trillion over five years.  The report suggests the elimination of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Market Access Program (MAP), a program that funnels millions of dollars to large corporations to promote their products in overseas markets.  If eliminated, MAP would save taxpayers $231 million over five years.  Also recommended for elimination is the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), Rep. John Murtha’s (D-Pa.) ineffective and wasteful pet project. Its elimination could save taxpayers $115 million over five years.  

Essentially, President Obama is asking his cabinet to cut back on paperclips. He has not yet spent any of his political capital going after more challenging financial issues like the nation’s entitlement programs.  According to the Heritage Foundation, unless they are reformed, the combined cost of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will leap from 8.4 percent to 18.4 percent of the gross domestic product and will crowd out all other federal spending by 2052.

There is certainly no shortage of swollen government programs to target for the ax.  President Obama can practically take his pick.  His $100 million spending cut proposal might have been meant as a fiscally responsible gesture, but for those who can do simple math it came across as one big joke.  When it comes to budget reform, the President needs to remind himself of his own campaign slogan.  The time for change is now.  The American people are still waiting.

-- Erica Gordon

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