The White House yesterday launched yet another signature initiative to cut wasteful spending, once again setting the Administration’s key utility infielder, Vice President Joe Biden, to the task.
This latest campaign follows a previous effort launched in 2009 directing the cabinet secretaries to track down a whole $100 million—yes, million—in wasteful spending. In the summer of that year the White House then trumpeted that they had over-performed by a whole $2 million. Meanwhile, the budget deficit topped $1.4 trillion.
Two full years into the Administration, with agency budget officers and the Office of Management and Budget well-equipped to identify waste, and the Administration launches a wasteful spending campaign? Didn’t the Administration just release a budget a few months ago?
The key word here seems to be campaign. Acknowledging the country’s disgust with Washington spending, a slumping economy, and a looming election, President Obama turned to a little political showmanship employing once again the parlor game of cups.
This latest effort is reminiscent of an effort almost 20 years ago during the Clinton Administration. President Clinton created the National Performance Review, headed by Vice President Al Gore, to find ways for government to reinvent itself to perform better at lower cost.
By all accounts, Gore was extensively involved in the first phase. One popular tale had Gore visiting a government office and walking the halls. Finally, he found a cubicle with a worker in it. But the worker wasn’t working. He was finishing a crossword puzzle, which was added to an overflowing trash can of crossword puzzles.
The Vice President asked him about it and the worker replied, “Mr. Vice President, I’m so glad to see you. I was hired five years ago as an accountant out of school. Every day I show up to work on time, I only take my allotted time for lunch, and I never leave early. But nobody has every told me what I’m supposed to do, so all I do is crossword puzzles. Can you help me? I’d really like to earn my living.”
Gore shook the man’s hand, checked his union card, and patted him on the shoulder, promising to look into it.
As he then moved down the hallway Gore found another worker, professionally dressed and with a stack of finished crossword puzzles. When he inquired about it, the Vice President was told almost the same story, except this worker had been diligently idle since the Kennedy Administration and was nearing retirement.
As he walked away, the Vice President shook his head and wrote down in his notebook, “Serious problem with redundancy.”