Like, oh, maybe 40 of the presidents before him, Barack Obama says that he wants to cut out wasteful programs. At least George W. Bush, the most spendthrift chief executive in decades, has made it easy in comparison. It will be hard for President Obama to outspend the Republicans.
Still, making a difference in the federal budget won’t be easy. After all, the bail-outs almost certainly aren’t over, and then there’s billions or zillions or whatever in “stimulus” spending, which Congress will turn into the ultimate spending Christmas tree. And even if the president-elect is serious, well, the real budget numbers get in the way. <a href=”http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/washingtondc/la-na-obama26-2008nov26,0,4578509.story”>Reports the <em>Los Angeles Times</em>:</a>
<blockquote>President-elect Barack Obama delivered a message Tuesday that even as the nation girds for a major stimulus package meant to “jolt” the economy out of its downturn, he will be a careful custodian of the budget, eliminating wasteful spending such as federal crop subsidies for millionaire farmers.
That type of federal outlay “is a prime example of the kind of waste that I intend to end as president,” Obama told reporters at a hotel in downtown Chicago, as he introduced Peter R. Orszag as his nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget. Orszag, educated at Princeton and the London School of Economics, headed the Congressional Budget Office, which analyzes budget issues.
But for Obama and Orszag to achieve any substantial savings, they will need to squarely confront the whopping chunk of the budget that got little attention in the news conference: massive entitlement programs covering Social Security and healthcare.
Budget experts applauded Obama’s plan to subject federal spending to rigorous scrutiny. The president-elect vowed to scour the budget for inefficiencies, using common-sense criteria for what should be preserved or discarded.
“We are going to go through our federal budget, as I promised during the campaign, page by page, line by line, eliminating those programs we don’t need and insisting that those that we do need operate in a sensible, cost-effective way,” Obama said.
Such a promise “is music to my ears — an absolute symphony,” said Isabel Sawhill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and an official in the Office of Management and Budget in the Clinton administration.
Yet for Obama to contain costs in a period of swelling deficits, he’ll need to make his review as expansive as possible, experts said. That means targeting not just scattershot discretionary programs, but the entitlement spending that accounts for about 54% of the $3-trillion federal budget. Curbing the cost of popular entitlements like Social Security is a risky political step. And Obama made no specific mention of Social Security or other such programs at his news conference.
“If we’re forecasting deficits of something in the neighborhood of a trillion dollars, and you think you can scrub the budget and find a trillion dollars, you can’t,” Sawhill said.</blockquote>
I can’t help but with the president-elect well. But count me as a skeptic that he’s willing to take the tough steps necessary to bring anything resembling “responsibility” to federal spending!