Today during their first official cabinet meeting, the Obama White House released this list of examples of ways in which the federal agencies will be able to cut wasteful government spending in the next 90 days. The President’s charge to his cabinet members is to “cut a collective 100 million dollars in the next 90 days,” from spending that at least sounds like “waste”–if not “fraud” or “abuse.” For example, the Education Department:
…has reduced the ratio of computers per employee requiring that most employees use laptop computers (as opposed to keeping a desktop and also receiving a laptop). This will result in annual savings of about $2 million. Additionally, savings from increasing the ratio of people who use a given printer will save an additional $6.7 million.
…and the Department of Homeland Security:
…spends $100 million a year on office supplies, but virtually none of the supplies are purchased through agreements that leverage the Department’s collective buying power. DHS estimates that it could save up to $52 million over five years by purchasing in bulk for the Department. An additional $10 million over five years could be saved by procuring multi-purpose office equipment, such as a combined copier, printer, fax, and scanner all in a single unit, which will save space, reduce service costs, and lead to volume discounts.
In other words, these are “no brainer” cuts in spending, which also means no one should disagree with the wisdom of such cuts. And $100 million worth of such “no brainers” sounds like the proverbial $20 bill laying on the sidewalk. Except that relative to the annual federal budget (of $3.5 trillion), the $100 million amounts to just 15 minutes worth of the year’s worth of spending (.00285 percent). So rather than the $20 bill laying on the sidewalk, it’s really like finding just a $1 bill (for a pretty typical individual with a $35,000 income).
Easy choices come cheap. Only the tough choices are expensive–i.e., the ones that would actually amount to something that would make a real difference.