Donald Lambro

There are plenty of places in the government's vast bureaucracy to cut -- not just $100 million but several hundred billion dollars in ineffective and unaffordable programs. A good place to start would be the funds already appropriated for the economic-recovery bill, only a portion of which will be spent this year.

Already, reports are coming in of marginal spending projects that will create few, if any, permanent jobs. In Pawtucket, R.I., they plan to spend $550,000 in stimulus money to build a skateboard park at a local school. There are bike racks being installed in Washington, D.C., $57 million in studies in Ohio of dubious need, $500,000 for fish food in Missouri, $1.5 million for a "streetscape improvement around a casino" in Michigan and $3.8 million to extend an "ARTWalk" in Rochester, N.Y.

The administration in the last couple of weeks has conceded that there are "glimmers of hope" that the economy is in the early stages of turning around sooner than the pessimists have predicted. Several big banks have reported profits, housing sales have begun showing signs of life, and the number of home mortgages and mortgage refinances has crept upward. If these and other signs of recovery continue to improve, there are real questions about whether the rest of the stimulus funds should be repealed or at least curtailed before year's end.

Meantime, Republicans are trying to figure out how they can tap into the political energy and passion that exploded across the nation last week, or whether it is a flash-in-the-pan phenomenon.

Activists who were part of the tea parties that drew large numbers of ordinary, non-activist, middle-class Americans told me that this movement is not going away.

"This movement has legs, no question about it. The sheer number of people who turned out for something like this, without much promotion or organization, was awesome," said Jim Sibold, former GOP chairman of Georgia's DeKalb County. There is talk of a massive march on Washington in early October when the battle over Obama's budget could be in full fury.

"There's been a revolution on taxes and spending, and it's just getting started. This is an opportunity for the Republican party or an opportunity lost, depending on how quickly they act," GOP campaign strategist John Brabender told me.

Clearly, the White House sensed this, too. Thus, Obama's anemic effort for additional spending cuts this week. But the independent-minded people who turned out for last week's tax-day rallies can add, and they know the difference between millions, billions and trillions.

"This is ultimately about independents and winning over a majority of them, and we are a long way from doing this right now," said former Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, who chaired the Republican congressional campaign committee.

To win over this electorate, Republicans have "got to stay on message. There are no silver bullets. It took eight years to drive this party into the ground, and you are not going to turn it around overnight," he said.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.