What is Obama cutting from the Federal budget?
There’s an old saying in our nation’s capital — “$1 billion here, $1 billion there”. This is supposed to be a joke about the large amounts of money that our Federal government deals with on a daily basis, and is meant to give the common man a chuckle. However, in the case of President Obama’s recent budget cut decisions, it just isn’t true.
When President Obama organized his Cabinet, he let them know that he expected them to come up with $100 million in budget savings, and to do it pronto. Sure, $100 million pales in comparison to $1 billion, but as my mama taught me, every little bit counts.
President Obama’s Cabinet has finally delivered what the President wants. $100 million in budget cuts have been whispered to Obama, and now he’s sharing them with the country. Okay, so we’re not talking about an amount of money that will fix the economy or give back hundreds of thousands of jobs, but President Barack Obama’s budget cuts are a delivery on two promises. The first — a promise he made to his country, to his fellow citizens. The second promise — that Obama wouldn’t ask anything of us that he wouldn’t do himself. More on that last promise later. First, the cuts.
Most government agencies have agreed to go “paperless” in most cases, saving an untold amount in paper and copy machine costs. Don’t laugh — the estimate for this savings alone is over $90,000 per agency. Similarly, the Treasury Department has decided to shred classified materials (and to recycle them) instead of following their usual protocol and burning them through an outside agency. This small change will recapture about $40,000 per year.
Over at the Justice Department, the government will save an astounding $4 million in the next year by making their travel arrangements online (like the rest of us) instead of using travel agents. That’s a huge amount of savings for just one change — and by the way, who uses a travel agent anymore? Apparently, our government does.
In a move that echoes changes most of us are making in our own home, the Air Force agreed to install around 3,000 compact fluorescent light bulbs. This will reportedly reduce the Air Force’s electricity costs by about $36,000 a year.
Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture is cutting some overseas meetings and conferences (including a fancy trip to Australia), and the Department of Commerce did away with a plan to make over $140,000 in office renovations, saying that the changes were not “necessary to their operation”. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is shifting some expenses, including the maintenance and eventual disposal of temporary housing from Hurrican Katrina (120,000 housing units in all) — these changes will now be made by a private outfit. This move will save the government around $4 million in operating costs.
What is the biggest single change of them all? The Air Force isn’t just changing light bulbs — they’re saving $52 million by switching over to commercial jet fuel. The standard procedur for fuel in an Air Force jet is something known as “JP-8”. It doesn’t even there — the Air Force is cutting back a total of $18 million by transporting more soldiers per chartered airplane when they take leave. I figure they can sit the relative comfort of coach like the rest of us, but that probably won’t be a popular opinion.
The press release about the budget cuts came down the line late Monday evening with a surprisingly small amount of news coverage or fanfare. Most likely, the health care reform is clouding the news horizon, or the arrest of Henry Louis Gates. Either way, few people have heard the specifics of Obama’s cuts. And yes, Obama’s pledge to make cuts to the budget equals something near $1 for every $10,000 of his now $1 trillion budget — but he is delivering on a promise, and the angriest Birth Certificate conspiracy theory Republican can’t deny that. The budget, approved this past March, is now just a bit smaller.
Opponents of the President and his budget have been quick to compare the $100 million cut with “cutting a single foot-long submarine sandwich from the budget of a person making $60,000 a year”. Is it a strange analogy? Yes, but that doesn’t make it any less effective. After all, Americans are known for their predilection for food.
Don’t forget that the actual tally for cuts is $102 million for the year 2009, as well as an additional $165 million more in savings 2010. So, he’s cutting two sub sandwiches.
The President clearly believes that small savings add up to make a big difference. All comparisons to submarine sandwiches aside, these kinds of small changes reflect what the Federal government has been asking us to do for some years now — change little things to create big savings in energy costs. Think of these cuts as Obama practicing what he has so sternly been preaching.
By making these cuts, Obama has done exactly what he needed — fulfilled a couple of major promises he and his staff made to the American people. It may be easier for the rest of us to tighten our belts when we see our President doing the same.