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Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Cut and a Trim

President Obama received some positive press this morning by announcing plans to trim or eliminate 121 federal programs in an effort to save $17 billion. Unfortunately, these plans were revealed at the same time as the President was outlining the details of his $3.4 trillion federal budget, which includes substantial increases for a number of “domestic priorities.”

Certainly, these cuts appear more significant than last month's $100 million drop in the bucket. Media reports, however, reveal the President’s latest attempt at fiscal discipline to be no more than further smoke and mirrors.

The Washington Post reports:
If approved by Congress, those trims would amount to only about half a percent of the $3.4 trillion federal budget. But the proposed reductions are expected to be equally controversial on Capitol Hill, with some lawmakers battling for programs they favor and others demanded deeper cuts. …

Obama's list of proposed cuts is less ambitious than the hit list former president George W. Bush produced last year, which targeted 151 programs for $34 billion in savings. Like most of the cuts Bush sought, congressional sources and independent budget analysts predict, Obama's also are likely to prove a tough sell. …

The proposed cuts, if adopted by Congress, would not actually reduce government spending. Obama's budget would increase overall spending; any savings from the program terminations and reductions would be shifted to the president's priorities.

But the more likely outcome, budget analysts said, is that few to none of the programs targeted by Obama will be terminated. Presidents from both parties have routinely rolled out long lists of spending cuts -- and lawmakers from both parties routinely ignore them.
Marc Thiessen at the National Review has a useful article putting the value of this next round of supposed reductions into context.

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