Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON - Archaic, bloated, duplicative, wasteful, inefficient government is like the weather. People complain about it but no one's figured out how to change it.

I took some comprehensive, well-received whacks at the problem in several books in the 1980s, one of which was "Fat City - How Washington Wastes Your Taxes." It focused on waste and wantonness in more than a hundred agencies, programs and other back-water bureaucracies, costing more than $100 billion a year, which cried out to be terminated, downsized or sold on the auction block.

That was big money then, but it wouldn't even dent the debt in the Age of Obama who's been ramping up budget deficits at the rate of more than a trillion dollars a year.

Someone gave Ronald Reagan a copy of Fat City at the start of his 1980 presidential campaign and he began referring to it in his speeches and interviews, and handed out copies at his first Cabinet meeting.

He believed government wasted a lot of the money that Americans sent to the IRS each year and that many of the programs Congress had created over the decades needed to be either abolished, consolidated or cut to the bone.

Not only did he think no one would miss many of these all-but-forgotten agencies, but that the money saved was better left in the wallets and bank accounts of the nation's businesses and workers, creating jobs, strengthening families and expanding our economy.

Reagan succeeded in pulling a dispirited nation out of a deep, two year recession in the early 1980s through his Kennedy-style, across the board tax cuts. Unemployment fell significantly, the economy soared and tax revenue rose because people were working again.

He also made strides in fighting waste, fraud and abuse through the sweeping Grace Commission reforms and he managed to curb the budgets of programs here and there. But a spendthrift Congress fought his efforts every step of the way, often to a standstill.

Reagan's combative budget director David Stockman privately expressed deep frustration to this reporter that he hadn't been able to put more budget-cutting scalps on his belt. But he wasn't blaming only the Democrats.

Just before he left his post in 1985, Stockman called me in for an interview. On his desk was a heavily marked up copy of an article I'd written for The Washingtonian magazine about where to cut the budget.

"We've had a four-year shot at going after all these little mothers, and nobody around here will do it," he told me.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.