April 21, 2009

$100 Million Here, $100 Million There

The President has ordered his Cabinet to find ways to cut $100 million out of each of their budgets. I am unimpressed. So is the Washington press corps. When the President signs and applauds a budget bill with $8 billion -- that's $8,000 million -- in earmarks for local projects so Members of Congress can bring home the pork, saving 1.25% of that back in videoconferencing and bulk office supply orders are not particularly impressive.

It becomes even less impressive when you realize that President Obama has proposed a budget that would deficit spend to the tune of $1.5 trillion, or $1,500,000 million, and he's looking to save $100 million of that. The savings he's demanded from his Cabinet officers will reduce this year's deficit by 0.0015%. Excuse me if I think this is less significant than a pimento removed from a stuffed olive in the great Las Vegas buffet that is the Federal budget.

The White House's official line is that "this is a signal of more things to come." Well, not soon, if the economists are to be believed. You can't simultaneously "prime the pump" by spending more, and be fiscally responsible by spending less. I'd have felt better about it if the WH Press Secretary had said, "Well, we're still in stimulus mode, but this is a symbol and a reminder that in the future, when the economy turns around we're going to be watching our spending habits very closely." Gibbs left out that important modifier.

We cannot spend our way out of debt. We can spend our way towards other things, maybe, at the cost of accumulation of debt. Under some circumstances, it's defensible to say that other things are more immediately important than the debt. But at some point we have to tackle that debt, and that point is reached when the debt grows above a certain size. What that size might be, is as much a matter of guesswork than anything else. But it's certain that the longer we wait to address the problem, the harder it will be to solve.

1 comment:

DaveBuck said...

While I disagree with Obama's spending, We can certainly cut costs and do this stimulus thing at the same time.

I hope there is more to come. Cuts, that is.

Perhaps this is a little test of the new process. I tore down popcorn ceiling in a closet before tackling the entire room and am glad I did because I made errors there that I corrected for later.

The next set of cuts might be $10 billion. The set after might be $250 billion. Here's hoping.