The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


Obama's 4 Steps to a Leaner Government

By Michael D. Shear
President Obama was widely mocked earlier this week for earnestly announcing $100 million worth of cost-saving measures -- an amount that, given the sea of red ink that makes up the federal budget, would be barely noticed.

So without admitting any failure, the president is at it again.

In his weekly radio and Internet address this morning, Obama is unveiling a series of actions that he says will contribute to the fiscal discipline necessary even during the current economic crisis.

In the address, he proposes four things:

1) He will call on Congress to pass pay-as-you-go legislation that would require legislators to identify budget reductions if they intend elsewhere to increase spending on entitlements or to lower taxes.

"This principle - known as PAYGO - helped transform large deficits into surpluses in the 1990s. Now we must restore that sense of fiscal discipline," he said.

Of course, PAYGO legislation is hated among many in Congress because it ties their hands, making an already tough balancing act even harder. As a result, Congress has proven quite resourceful in finding ways to get around PAYGO-type rules.

2) Obama will tell agencies that they will be able to keep some of the money saved from cost-cutting measures. The idea: protect against an agency mentality that tries to safeguard a bloated budget to ensure that the following year's budget isn't smaller.

This principle has been tried in many local and state governments, with some effectiveness.

3) Remember that suggestion box at your office? The wooden one by the elevator, that nobody ever stuffs anything in (except for the really annoying suck-up)? Well, President Obama is creating a national suggestion box.

A virtual one, to be sure, but one that lets any government worker make suggestions about how to save.

"We'll put the suggestions that work into practice," he said. "And later this year, I will meet with those who come up with the best ideas to hear firsthand about how they would make your government more efficient and effective."

The result? A made-for-TV political event for Obama. But will the suggestion box produce millions -- or even billions -- of savings for the taxpayer as government workers root out waste, fraud and abuse?

4) Finally, Obama says in the address that -- shocker! -- government can learn from business ways to improve efficiency and save money, in part by investing in technology.

So the president will host a "forum on reforming government for the 21st century" to make sure that "we're also guided by voices that come from outside of Washington."

Perhaps learning from his earlier mistake, the president did not offer a number for how much money the government can save from the various proposals he outlined.

But he remained ever earnest, describing his suggestions as part of a broad effort to remake government into a smaller, leaner entity.

"We cannot sustain deficits that mortgage our children's future, nor tolerate wasteful inefficiency," he says. "Government has a responsibility to spend the peoples' money wisely, and to serve the people effectively. I will work every single day that I am president to live up to that responsibility, and to transform our government so that is held to a higher standard of performance on behalf of the American people."

Posted at 6:00 AM ET on Apr 25, 2009
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Here is a suggestion:

why don't the President, Congress and the Bankers & CEOs of Corporations who0 got bail-out-money, WORK FOR MINIMUM WAGE FOR A YEAR ?


Posted by: mewindows | April 27, 2009 12:26 PM

My suggestion is that the President not try to bamboozle the people with a stupid "suggestion box." If the President lacks for ideas, he should read more because there are plenty of them out there that he is ignoring. Really, it's just about impossible for really new and practical ideas to come from this.

Did you notice the weasel words in his announcement? "We'll put the suggestions that work into practice," he said. Right, just like he thinks he's doing now. Please!

Posted by: Thisisa | April 27, 2009 10:38 AM

o.k. one fix that our country can do is anyone who is getting welfare and doesn't have a job should be put to work anywhere someone is lacking an employee regardless of the job. That way they will get some type of job skill doing anything!

Posted by: jhm55 | April 27, 2009 9:54 AM

Paygo is a great idea, a little late though.

And his workers will never put this one in the suggestion box: term limits and all salary increases to be voted on.

Posted by: LibertarianWoman | April 26, 2009 10:08 PM


I think we're just talking past each other.

MAYBE I should have written EVERY OTHER WORD

See ya 'round campus.

Posted by: JohnQuimby | April 26, 2009 7:39 PM

JohnQuimby-You seem to have missed my point ENTIRELY!

The Reason Criminal Employers prefer to Hire "Mexicans", as you call them;


Granted, the Presence of a Honduran, Guatemalan, Salvidoran, or any other the other Large groups of Illegally residing workers,(Mexicans are for the most part-Legal, and the Criminal Employer there-of!), is Illegal! So, they are called Illegals!

But, they would have no reason to be here, and would not have had a Magnet Pulling them here;

If it was not for the ILLEGAL EMPLOYMENT Practices CONDONED by Quisling, Traitorous Scum "Representatives" of the American People!

Posted by: SAINT---The | April 26, 2009 5:18 PM

OK, I have a suggestion.
The post office gives out free boxes for shipping. Do you know how many of us get those free boxes and then use them to ship from fed ex stores?? or for storage in our attics and garage?

Start charging people for the boxes.

Posted by: tmcproductions2004 | April 26, 2009 12:02 PM

My suggestion is to close the Federal Reserve Private bank and give control of our money creation back to the Treasury. Use President Kennedy's Executive Order 11110 (still existent, but unused) to immediately begin printing and distributing Lincoln's non-debt Silver Certificate Dollars. Chasing the Banking Cartel out of our monetary system has already been done 5 times in the Past. Kennedy's EO was the sixth effort, sadly unsuccessful. see : []

see the internet film on Google or You Tube "The Money Masters".

Learn why the Fed is a scam at :

and see the results of a Senate investigation which found that the Banking Cartel Families DO own the Fed. A list of corporation which they also own and control such as General Motors and Sun Life is included. [ ]

Posted by: vcompton1 | April 26, 2009 11:47 AM

I am sure the suggestion box would work on a very small scale as the previous author notes and supports with citations from Robert Reich's book. But it is hardly a solution reducing the deficit that has been expanded in a relatively brief period.

It is primarily symbolic and is hardly serious deficit cutting move. It is similar to the President's much lampooned $100 million budget cuts. One of the so called cuts was actually a savings that would be achieved by a department buying office supplies in bulk quantities. One wonders why they did not think of that before.

It might be better for the President to just keep quiet on this issue rather than to continue to offer symbolic gestures that come close to insulting the intelligence of people.

Posted by: danielhancock | April 26, 2009 10:58 AM

I think the (electronic) suggestion box for low- and mid-level civil servants to suggest cost savings is brilliant. Of course they know how money could be saved.

Read Robert Reich's book Trapped in the Cabinet about his meeting with Labor Department rank and file employees and how they were all raising their hands with questions and ideas. The best part is that at the end of the book, chapters after discussing that meeting, he goes back and tells us how at least one of those suggestions--unifying all contacts with the unemployed at one service bureau, instead of forcing them to go to a different place for each service--was actually implemented.

At the time, Secretary Reich was not seeking cost savings exclusively, but rather any suggestions for better serving the public, doing the department's job, and so forth. Given today's situation, putting the emphasis on costs makes sense now. But I hope the suggestions "think big" like that example. That was a big change that saved the department money and served the public better at the same time.

I'm wondering about the advantages and disadvantages of doing this as a White House (Obama) initiative, versus a cabinet secretary's own management idea, as with Reich. You lose the "small town" flavor of working just within one department, as Reich did, but on the other hand you get the same effect across the entire government instead of just in one department with an activist economist at the helm. On balance, I think this will be even more effective because of the larger scale.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | April 26, 2009 1:07 AM


There's plenty we'll never see eye to eye on. But your last line about criminal employers got my attention.

I live in an area that depends on migrant labor for farm work. The men who work here are largely hard working and honest. They do their best to get ahead.

It's clear to me that the United States would rather allow undocumented Mexican labor to work here than encourage people who need jobs to re-locate from places like Houston or Detroit.

Let me skip ahead and say that there's more than one kind of prejudice at work. Just look back at the 1930's. There were lots of Okies and Arkies who left their farms to pick crops in Texas and California. They weren't exactly welcomed. So we introduced the bracero program and allowed Mexican immigration.

I wonder if we like our Mexicans but we're not so sure about the immigrant white trash and poor blacks who need jobs.

Or maybe it's just socialist to suggest American workers should go where the jobs are.

I was in Eastern Canada when they were discussing whether to allow crews from the US to pick cash crops. The growers said they needed the pickers to compete with US growers. A provincial officer responded. "We already have so many people on unemployment in this province, I don't see why we need to import labor".

Two years later they imported Russians under third party contracts to work in local fish plants. The workers sued - claiming they were lied to about compensation and working conditions.

Posted by: JohnQuimby | April 26, 2009 12:35 AM

Why is the 800 Pound Gorilla CONSTANTLY Ignored?

It is bad enough that we Import more Poverty than any other Nation LEGALLY!;


To also import more that arrive ILLEGALLY-Carrying Diseases and soon-to-be Anchor Babies(Who are INSTANT SCHIPS/Welfare and more BURDENS until 18!), than we take in LEGALLY;


It is soooooo waaaayyyyyyyy PAST TIME to not only STOP IT!;

We now, have to take actions to REVERSE IT!

Get Nancy Peloser to get HR 1940:Birthright Citizenship Act OFF HER DESK, onto the Floor;


and made RETROACTIVE to 2000!

THAT, is the PERFECT SOLUTION to this Country's PROBLEMS!

Amnesty? LMFAO!

Then, the Criminal Employers who WANT ILLEGALS, will just need 20,000,000 NEW ONES!

Posted by: SAINT---The | April 25, 2009 3:13 PM

What a brilliant young leader, so many fresh and vibrant ideas. Everything he promised during the campaign is coming to fruition—a true a move maker. He’s fixing every all the problems … Change that we needed! Finally the nation is getting back on track. Congrat’s America, what a proud day!

Posted by: madstamina | April 25, 2009 2:32 PM

Interesting that he pushed through the economic stimulus before PAYGO...

nd why is Obama so sensitive to his critics all of a sudden? Will there be a debate with Glenn Beck in the future? Just leave these goons alone...

Posted by: parkerfl1 | April 25, 2009 1:53 PM

Interesting that he pushed through the economic stimulus before PAYGO...

nd why is Obama so sensitive to his critics all of a sudden? Will there be a debate with Glenn Beck in the future? Just leave these goons alone...

Posted by: parkerfl1 | April 25, 2009 1:52 PM

Maybe the President can bring back the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings bill if he wants to make even more symbolic budget gestures. Wait, maybe I can put it in his suggestion box that he proposed in his radio address today.

Posted by: danielhancock | April 25, 2009 10:57 AM

"...comment sections of papers are filled with No Confidence with the Obama administration"

No, a majority of Americans voted for Obama and his approval ratings are accurate. Obama has placed an outstanding team so far. It's just the minority of wing-nuts like you who write into newspapers claiming he's not American. Very extreme....

Posted by: commentator3 | April 25, 2009 9:57 AM

There seems to be a problem with polls.

The comment sections of papers are filled with No Confidence with the Obama administration, who has not placed any acceptable team yet.
No confidence spreads from The Hill bailouts, to porkulous plans that clearly are not working.
Banks are gone and are currently running on the backs of grandchildren, the same as car companies.
Biological attacks lip at the unprotected border, while the Czar insults American Citizens and Canadians with untruths.

Larger and larger numbers of people openly gather and state that Obama cannot be the POTUS under the rules of the Constitution, and is acting like the enemy within towards Americans as he disses us abroad.

Observing the people's comments in coffee lines, and reading opinions, certainly reads differently than the paid propagandists push on polls.

The Obama base has been walking out.

Obama = No Confidence
Time for POTUS Biden.

Posted by: dottydo | April 25, 2009 9:48 AM

Too bad it rhymes with "Blago".

Posted by: NotBubba | April 25, 2009 8:10 AM

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