Obama Administration Finally Gets Something Right

Bruce Bialosky

8/2/2009 8:05:30 PM - Bruce Bialosky

It has taken six months, a few trillion dollars and the sacrifice of a few long-time foreign allies, but the Obama Administration has finally gotten something right. It is not what Joe Biden said about Russia though that was correct. Surely the President had to bite down on something to avoid screaming after that comment. No folks, it is the cost savings they have announced wrung out of the federal budget.

When this Administration started (yes, I know it seems like a lifetime already), it set out the goal of saving $100 million from the federal budget. Everyone laughed for two reasons. First, the number is so small compared to the national budget that is not a significant number; second, Obama was exploding the budget with things like the non-stimulating stimulus bill.

This week the Administration announced 77 spending cuts which enabled them to achieve their goal, and they should be applauded. They actually hit $102 million. This may be a minor cost to some, but what is wrong with savings that might cash?

The Justice Department figured out that paper has two sides and they can print on both, for savings of $573,000 per year plus 2,498 trees. The Homeland Security Department discovered than can save $318,000 by sending documents by email. The Navy discovered they could save $5 million a year by eliminating unused email accounts. These are just a few of the changes being made that create these annual savings.

This is a dramatic turnaround in attitude for Democrats. Last time they were in charge, they scoffed at making even minor budget cuts. I remember confronting Congressman Howard Berman, Henry Waxman’s more reasonable twin, when there was a discussion about why Congress still had elevator operators instead of pushing their own buttons. He laughed at what minor savings this would be relative to the huge federal budget. My argument was that anything saved was a beginning.

The Republicans were heading down this path when they took control of Congress in 1995. John Kasich took over the House Budget Committee and cut 100 commissions and agencies. There was a lot of screaming and yelling, but it was done. Then the Republicans stopped for some unknown reason. A couple of years later I would relate this to people and ask them if they could name any of the 100 entities that were eliminated. They all said they could not. I suggested that the Republicans find another 100 agencies to eliminate and keep it rolling.

The kind of expenditure reductions that the Democrats are proposing is the same kind of thing we in the business world do regularly. Around my house and business, every bill is carefully reviewed for all charges. It is amazing what a credit card or phone company will slip into a bill. That questionable $5 charge becomes $60 a year and multiple bills add up to significant dollars. If we pay attention to those cost savings, why shouldn’t our government?

I was somewhat disheartened to see a smart Republican, Paul Ryan, minimize these cuts in his comments to the Wall Street Journal. Certainly, we have bigger challenges especially with some of the ridiculous expenditure programs that Obama and the Democrats are proposing. But why not applaud the Democrats for finally finding some fiscal sense? Mr. Ryan should have praised them and challenged them to find more and even deeper cuts. He should have offered to help. I am sure he has a laundry list.

In the past, Democrats’ ideas of a cost saving was to cut payments to doctors by Medicare or Medicaid. This is not a cost saving. It is really a cost shift as doctors would either refuse service or make up the money by charging private insurers to balance their costs. The Democrats in the House and Senate blow money on junkets and targeted budget expenditures and then laugh it off as insignificant. At least the Obama Administration is making an effort.

I know $102 million is not a lot of money in the federal budget, but it is still $102 million. That is a billion over the next ten years not factoring in inflation. Obama should consider this a beginning and have his people start looking for more. And how about those 100 agencies and bureaus the Republicans should have gone after in the ‘90’s? That would create real savings. Congratulations, Mr. President, you finally got something right.