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Living Within Our Means: Obama Budget Team Edition

November 25th, 2008 . by economistmom

Ahhh…  After a noticeable lack of any mention of fiscal responsibility over the past few days (I was trying not to “look”), a return to it with today’s announcement of Peter Orszag as the Obama Administration’s budget director.  From President-elect Obama’s remarks:

As I said yesterday, the economic crisis we face demands that we invest immediately in a series of measures that will help save or create two and a half million jobs and put tax cuts in the pockets of the hard-pressed middle class. Many of those new jobs will come in areas such as energy independence, technology, and health care modernization that will strengthen our economy for the future.

But if we’re going to make the investments we need, we must also be willing to shed the spending we don’t. In these challenging times, when we are facing both rising deficits and a sinking economy, budget reform is not an option. It is an imperative. We cannot sustain a system that bleeds billions of taxpayer dollars on programs that have outlived their usefulness, or exist solely because of the power of a politician, lobbyist, or interest group. We simply cannot afford it.

This isn’t about big government or small government. It’s about building a smarter government that focuses on what works. That is why I will ask my team to think anew and act anew to meet our new challenges. We will go through our federal budget — page by page, line by line — eliminating those programs we don’t need, and insisting that those we do operate in a sensible cost-effective way.

More later when I can find a transcript from the Q&A.

UPDATE (8 pm):  Can’t find a transcript of the Q&A part of the press conference, but I did want to share with you Peter’s last blog post on the CBO Director’s Blog.   Having worked at CBO for five years in the mid-to-late 1990s, and with many friends still there, I can vouch for this (favorite) part of Peter’s “last post”:

Perhaps most fundamentally, CBO is a reflection of the smart and hard-working but also warm and wonderful people who work here.  (If you find it hard to believe that budget analysts and economists can be warm and wonderful, please just take my word for it.)

I wonder if the blog will go on without Peter–if part of the required skill set for the new CBO director is the ability to blog about budget issues, or if CBO might carve out that duty from the director’s job and create a new ”CBO Blogger” position.  I might apply then.  Not for the director’s job; I mean for the blogger’s job.  ;)

8 Responses to “Living Within Our Means: Obama Budget Team Edition”

  1. comment number 1 by: Elizabeth

    Can we send economistmom congratulations to Christina Romer (who is not only a great economist, but is also a mom)?

  2. comment number 2 by: pgl

    Something told me that this would make you happy:

    econospeak.blogspot.com/2008/11/return-of-rubinomics.html

    OK, truth be told, I’m a bit of a deficit hawk but don’t tell The Sandwichman that. Shhh!

  3. comment number 3 by: Patrick R. Sullivan

    http://in.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idINIndia-36698520081125?sp=true

    “On Monday Obama held a news conference to announce his economic team. Flanked by flags and new staff members, he vowed to jolt the economy with an aggressive new stimulus package.

    “On Tuesday Obama held another press event, this time announcing his pick to run the White House budget office and intention to cut billions of dollars in wasteful spending.”

    Neat trick.

  4. comment number 4 by: economistmom

    Elizabeth: Yes, of course! I’m a little disappointed that I had to do a little bit of digging to find out Christina Romer is a mom of three, in fact! Don’t you think that should be part of what people praise her on–that she’s not just a great economist, but a great economistMOM? ;)

  5. comment number 5 by: Brooks

    Count me as unimpressed at more vague talk from a politician about fiscal responsibiliity along with a not-so-bold statement of intent to go after relatively minor programs that “don’t work” (and just when I finally got out of my head the echo of McCain’s voice emphatically saying “Earmarks!”). Willie Sutton didn’t rob piggy banks. We all know where the money is, and it will take brass onions (just to throw in an awkward mixed metaphor) to propose structural changes that will slow their long-term growth.

    The day Obama announces a proposal to begin phasing in what will eventually amount to significant reductions in benefits and/or eligibility for Medicare and Social Security, I will gladly and gratefully kneel, bow down as low as I can go before his image on my TV and yell “I’m not worthy!”

    Until then, well, better than nothing (unless it’s used as faux fiscal responsibility to provide cover for neglecting much larger drivers of our long-term fiscal imbalance), but I’m for keeping our applause proportionate.

  6. comment number 6 by: Brooks

    I see tomorrow’s (technically today’s) WaPo editorial, hot off the presses (or digital equivalent thereof), concurs with my view http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/25/AR2008112502080.html

  7. comment number 7 by: pgl

    Hmmm, PR Sullivan THINKS he sees Obama contradicting himself (neat trick). Guess he should learn the difference between short-run stimulus v. long-run restraint. It is after all what we mean by Rubinomics and it was the core of Clinton’s fiscal policy 16 years ago. And yea - the trick resulted in 3.7% average annual real GDP growth over his 8 years in office. Really neat!

  8. comment number 8 by: Patrick R. Sullivan

    What, you be dissin’ my buddy J Bradford, pgl? He told me he was the player 16 years ago in the Lloyd Bentsen Treasury.

    Btw, how does Rubin’s position on derivatives look now?