Pinching Pennies in a Spending Spree

The Wall Street Journal reminds us that Robert Gibbs press conferences are not the only source of comedy gold. In a piece entitled “In a Savings Shocker, the Government Discovers That Paper Has Two Sides,” Jonathan Weisman writes:

With the budget deficit soaring toward $2 trillion, the Department of Justice has figured out how to play its part: double-sided photocopying. There are other acts of national sacrifice. The Forest Service will no longer repaint its new, white vehicles green immediately upon purchase. The Army will start packing more soldiers onto R&R flights. The Navy will delete unused email accounts. Three months ago, President Barack Obama ordered his cabinet secretaries to find $100 million in budget cuts for the current fiscal year to emphasize the point that he, too, was serious about belt-tightening. They responded with $102 million. That is 0.006% of the estimated federal deficit. The list of 77 spending cuts, which the White House is calling “the $100 million savings challenge,” reflects the vastness of government — and its vast inefficiency. Hundreds of millions of dollars in savings were found simply by casting around for areas to trim. Still, the reductions barely scratch the surface. “Some of these cuts are so small they would be a rounding error of a rounding error in the federal budget,” said Brian Riedl, a federal budget expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation. They also show how “unbelievably outdated” the government is, he said.

What is pathetic is not simply how many years behind the private sector the government is in a variety of ways (and these are the people who want to run your health care and make it “cheaper” by a public option) but also the contempt those in office must have for the intelligence of voters. All this scrimping (maybe to be followed by fishing pennies out of the fountains) is meant to show some sense of fiscal responsibility. Meanwhile, the president and Congress spend trillions on top of trillions on stimulus, budget, and health-care plans. This is the proverbial Diet Coke with the ice cream sundae.