President Obama’s “Campaign to Cut Waste” Has Lackluster Prospects | Citizens Against Government Waste
The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

President Obama’s “Campaign to Cut Waste” Has Lackluster Prospects

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.


On June 13, 2011, President Obama issued an Executive Order mandating a “renewed effort to hunt down misspent tax dollars in every agency and department of this government.” The President announced the so-called “Campaign to Cut Waste” by posting a short video message on youtube.com. Vice-President Joe Biden will lead the campaign, which will initially consolidate or eliminate some 500 federally maintained websites. The video specifically targeted several federal websites as a part of the initial effort, including a website dedicated to the desert tortoise, a page featuring a forest rangers’ folk music group called the Fiddlin’ Foresters, the National Invasive Species Council’s homepage, and another webpage with information about the International Polar Year, which ended in 2008.

Citizens Against Government Waste’s (CAGW) President Tom Schatz remarked on June 13 that the Campaign to Cut Waste “is at least the fifth such initiative undertaken by the Obama administration since 2009.  Like the others before it, this proposal includes nothing along the lines of tangible spending cuts or concrete suggestions for cutting government bloat.”

In his video message, the President emphasized the importance of putting an end to other “ridiculous practices” that lead to “pointless waste and stupid spending that doesn’t benefit anybody.” For instance, the federal government holds title to approximately 12,000 buildings and structures which are currently designated as “excess,” and the President stressed his intention to cut through red tape to ensure that these buildings are sold. He also announced a plan to curtail the daily printing and shipping of the Federal Register to thousands of government offices since the Federal Register is available online. In sum, the President asserted that his administration has already identified $33 billion in similarly sensible savings

that could be realized this year.

The President’s statement that “no amount of waste is acceptable” is difficult to reconcile with other statements he has made on the topic. For example, in a speech at the George Washington University on April 13, 2011, President Obama diminished the importance of efforts to address the government’s fiscal difficulties by stamping out waste and abuse, maintaining that “politicians are often eager to feed the impression that solving the problem is just a matter of eliminating waste and abuse.  You’ll hear that phrase a lot.  ‘We just need to eliminate waste and abuse.’  The implication is that tackling the deficit issue won’t require tough choices.”

True fiscal responsibility requires both a willingness to make difficult choices and a commitment to ensure that public money is tracked and protected. Whether the campaign lives up to the high standard the President set or proves to be more of a campaign platitude remains to be seen. Unnecessary government websites should be shut down regardless of the President’s comments, but such an initiative will yield only meager savings. Revenue from property sales would provide a one-time boost to the government’s balance sheet, but would not solve the government’s long-term fiscal problems.

Tom Schatz said that “if the President truly wants to eliminate duplicative, wasteful spending, he should start with the Government Accountability Office’s report from March, 2011 that identified 34 agencies, offices, and initiatives that provide similar or identical services to the same populations, along with 47 programs that are either wasteful or inefficient.  The list included 18 nutrition and food assistance programs, 47 job retraining programs, 80 economic development programs, 56 financial literacy programs, and $77 billion of waste at the Department of Defense.”

The President’s campaign has a broad mandate to investigate the federal government’s operations. Vice President Biden needs to ask not only whether the Fiddlin’ Foresters and the National Invasive Species Council need websites, but also whether the Fiddlin’ Foresters and the National Invasive Species Council should exist at all.

On June 8, CAGW released Prime Cuts 2011, a compilation of 691 recommendations that would save taxpayers $391.9 billion in the first year and $1.8 trillion over five years. The President should construct this kind of a broad, comprehensive series of recommendations to save substantial sums of taxpayer money and correct the government’s long-term fiscal imbalance.

Christopher P. Ryan

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