For a very modest definition of the word "trim".  This administration has said it would be more fiscally responsible than the last, and then proceeded to put us into debt in a way never before seen.  Well then, it made a promise about cutting the budget.  So how’s that going?

President Obama has said for weeks that his staff is scouring the federal budget, "line by line," for savings. Today, they will release the results: a plan to trim 121 programs by $17 billion, a tiny fraction of next year’s $3.4 trillion budget.

About 1/2 of 1%.  Well, one might say, that’s probably better than what Bush did.  And one might be wrong.

The plan is less ambitious than the hit list former president George W. Bush produced last year, targeting 151 programs for $34 billion in savings. And like most of the cuts Bush sought, congressional sources and independent budget analysts yesterday predicted that Obama’s, too, would be a tough sell.

With a much smaller budget, Dubya found double the cuts he wanted. 

But just because the President wants a cut, no matter his party, that isn’t the end of the story.

"Even if you got all of those things, it would be saving pennies, not dollars. And you’re not going to begin to get all of them," said Isabel Sawhill, a Brookings Institution economist who waged her own battles with Congress as a senior official in the Clinton White House budget office. "This is a good government exercise without much prospect of putting a significant dent in spending."

The problem is that our federal government is simply too big.  So much responsibility has been given up voluntarily by, or taken by force from, states and the private sector, and once it goes to Washington, it virtually always stays there, where it grows and costs more money while becoming less and less efficient and nimble.  Whatever the good intention, the more Washington does for us, the more it costs and the less anybody wants their piece of the pie slimmed.  Consolidation of this power means lobbyists only have to convince a few Washington Senators and Representatives to keep their money flowing rather than legislatures in 50 states. 

This is the result; a budget where only the most microscopic pieces can ever hope to be trimmed. 

Filed under: DougEconomics & TaxesGovernment

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