Donald Lambro

Instead, their focus for many decades has been on new legislation that's added trillions of dollars in new spending swelling ever higher deficits that in just the last three years have run up an unprecedented $1.5 trillion to $1.3 trillion a year in red ink.

In the 1980s, when federal spending was far lower than it is now, I wrote several books that exposed -- program by program -- the rising level of waste, mismanagement and sheer extravagance that engulfed most of the government.

Two of those books, Fat City, and Washington - City of Scandals, were used by the Reagan administration in its attack on big government. Their findings led to the Grace Commission which fingered hundreds of billions of dollars in needless spending, only to come under attack from big spenders in Congress and the special interests who were enriched by these programs.

Seeing his proposed cuts condemned, ignored and even ridiculed, Reagan expressed his frustration to me in an Oval Office interview in 1981, shortly after his recovery from an assassination attempt.

As the interview concluded, Reagan quietly drew me aside near his desk and said, "Just between us, one of the hardest things in a government this size -- no matter what our people way on top are trying to do -- is to know down there, underneath, is that permanent structure that is resisting everything you're doing."

We have seen this entrenched opposition to needed spending cuts in this administration which has enlarged government by trillions of dollars in three short years. We see in it the Congress where, at the beginning of the debt limit debate, Senate Democrat leaders refused to take up the House Republican passed budget cuts.

In my books, I largely focused on eliminating programs entirely and detailed a list of more than 100 agencies that cried out to be abolished or cut back significantly, which would have potentially saved trillions of dollars over the coming decades.

They included the Small Business Administration that barely helped 1 percent of small businesses; Community Development Block Grants that went to wealthy cities and towns; billions in corporate welfare that bankrolled Fortune 500 companies; Urban Development Grants that built ritzy hotel complexes; the Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration, a scandal-ridden, pork-barrel giveaway program that failed to create jobs.

The costs of these and many other programs totaled about $200 billion back then. Today, their costs approach close to nearly half the panel's $1.2 trillion savings goal.

This is not as hard as it looks. It takes political will and guts, something that, so far, is sorely missing among many of the members of this misnamed "supercommittee."

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.