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Eye Opener: Feb. 27, 2009

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Friday! The Post's Philip Rucker spent some time with the administration's "super-nerd" and Office of Management Budget director Peter Orszag (see above) and learned that with his new job "comes a sort of fame. A divorced father of two, Orszag is suddenly one of Washington's most eligible bachelors. He posed in his cowboy boots for Annie Leibovitz's March Vanity Fair spread. During a photo shoot for the New York Times Magazine, he recalled, 'They'd say, 'Chin up! Hips out!' I'd say, 'You've got to be kidding me. I'm sorry, I don't do that.'"

Dan Balz, on book leave of late, returns to the pages of The Post with an analysis of the president's proposed budget writing that it "underscores the breadth of his aspiration to reverse three decades of conservative governance and use his presidency to rapidly transform the country.

"But in adopting a program of such size, cost and complexity, Obama has far exceeded what other politicians might have done. As a result, he is now gambling with his own future and the success of his presidency."

"The blueprint," writes The Post's budget reporter Lori Montgomery, "would overhaul programs across the federal bureaucracy to strengthen assistance for millions of people who have borne the consequences of what Obama called 'an era of profound irresponsibility,' helping them pay for college, train for better jobs and save for retirement while taking less of their earnings in taxes.

"With its immense scope and bold prescriptions, Obama's agenda seeks to foster a redistribution of wealth, with the government working to narrow the growing gap between rich and poor. It is likely to spark fierce political battles on an array of fronts, from social spending to energy policy to taxes."

See former Postie Peter Baker (now at that OTHER newspaper) analyze the budget here.

Join The Eye today at 11 a.m. ET for the Post Politics Hour live discussion and don't forget to follow The Eye on Twitter and send us federal government-related news article, events listings and your questions or comments to federaleye@washingtonpost.com.

For any agency-by-agency budget breakdown, clidk here and check out the impact on pay raises and charitable giving, after the jump...

Federal Pay Raises: "It's been hard to find any daylight between President Obama and the federal employee unions that worked hard to put him in office -- until now," writes The Post's Joe Davidson. "When he released his proposed 2010 budget summary yesterday, the unions were not pleased. The budget calls for civilian workers to get a 2 percent raise while military personnel would see a 2.9 percent bump. It's not the paltry increase that's so upsetting to the unions, particularly when unemployment lines keep growing. Rather, it's the dismissal of the principle of parity that makes the employees so upset." Government Executive notes that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, whose district is full of federal employees, pledges to push for equal pay raises for civilian and military employees.

Giving, Till It Hurts: Al Kamen and Philip Rucker note that the budget could have a big impact on the amount of people wealthy people give to charity. "This is big business, especially here in Washington. Most of the federal city's major think tanks and policy institutes -- not to mention its food banks, homeless shelters and other social service agencies -- are nonprofit organizations funded by private donors." More: "Because many affluent folks cut checks to charities partly to dodge taxes, news of the proposed change set the nonprofit world abuzz yesterday. CNBC's Maria Bartiromo started things off in the morning by saying that the impact on charities is an 'unintended consequence' of Obama's fiscal restraint and warning that donations could 'go off a cliff.'"

Budget Summary Littered With Management Proposals: "Scattered throughout the more than $3 trillion fiscal 2010 budget the Obama administration outlined on Thursday are management initiatives designed to help the president meet his goal of cutting the federal deficit in half by the end of his first term," reports Gov Exec's Elizabeth Newell. "The focus on making government more efficient is one reason the administration is confident it can return federal spending to a sustainable path, said Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget. The deficit is expected to reach $1.75 trillion in fiscal 2009."

Obama Aims High for Higher Education: "Here's what's perhaps most unusual about President Obama's big budget proposals for higher education: That he's thinking about higher education at all." USA Today's Greg Toppo and Mary Beth Marklein write that "Delineated in a handful of brash proposals Thursday, Obama's plan to make college more affordable and within reach of more students represents a break from the approach that President Bush took — he focused much of his energy from Day 1 on improving K-12 education, most notably with his signature No Child Left Behind law."

FDIC Fund Dwindling: "The federal insurance fund that protects most bank deposits is being drained by a sharp rise in bank failures and has dwindled to its lowest level since 1993, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. reported yesterday," reports The Post's business whiz Binyamin Appelbaum.

National Security Structure Is Set: Obama adds the secretaries of energy and homeland security, and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to the formal National Security Council reports The Post's Karen DeYoung.

OTS Ignored Warnings on IndyMac: Double-dipping in today's Post, Appelbaum also reports that "Senior officials at the Office of Thrift Supervision repeatedly ignored warnings, including from their own employees, about the dangerous excesses at California mortgage lender IndyMac Bancorp, according to a report released yesterday by the Treasury Department's inspector general."

Government Still Provides Unethical Contractors With Work, GAO Says: From Robert Brodsky at Gov Exec: "More than two dozen contracts were issued in fiscal 2006 and 2007 to businesses or individuals who at the time were under federal suspension or debarment, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. 'This is probably just the tip of the iceberg,' said Gregory Kurtz, GAO's managing director of forensic audits and special projects before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday. 'I believe that further investigation will find dozens or hundreds of other cases. These are the kinds of cases that cause taxpayers to lose faith in their government.'"

Smithsonian Announces New Hirshhorn Director: Richard Koshalek, former director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, to lead the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden reports The Post's Jacqueline Trescott. "The appointment of Koshalek completes the turnover of leadership among three of the Smithsonian's national art galleries. Besides the Hirshhorn, the National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of African Art have had new directors appointed within the past year."

Today's Big Event: ... is actually tomorrow. The Secret Service holds a job fair for Administrative, Professional, Technical and Law Enforcement positions at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. More information here. Other events listed here.

By Ed O'Keefe  | February 27, 2009; 8:06 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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Next: Explaining Mrs. Obama's Visits to Federal Agencies

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