With another federal spending controversy brewing on Capitol Hill, recall that in his 2010 State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama said, “We’ve already identified $20 billion in savings for next year.” Now it’s next year — so what happened to the $20 billion in savings? Let’s follow the bouncing budget cut.
The “$20 billion” promise was not the sort of empty verbiage that dominates the federal spending debate. How many times have you heard a politician thunder about cutting spending but not cite even one specific reduction he or she supports? A year ago, the Office of Management and Budget laid out Obama’s proposed cuts in specific detail.
Some highlights: End production of the C-17 cargo plane, $2.5 billion saved. End federal funding for local hospital construction, $338 million saved. End the Save America’s Treasures program, $30 million saved. (The new book “Triumph of the City” by Edward Glaeser of Harvard argues that programs such as this actively backfire by slowing urban rebirth.)
Cut the Homeland Security Activities budget of the Environmental Protection Agency — the EPA fights terrorism? — by $35 million. Cut $1.5 billion in tax favors to Big Oil. Eliminate numerous overlapping education-grant initiatives. Cut $20 million from the critical, crucial, vital Right-Size Component Personnel Travel program. A litany of specific federal spending or tax-favor reductions were proposed in 2010 by the White House. The total saved came to $23 billion, more than the president promised.
Here’s what happened: nothing.
The spending cuts the president requested in 2010 were part of his fiscal 2011 budget proposal — and Congress never voted on the FY11 budget. Since October, the country has been operating on “continuing resolution,” meaning the budget of fiscal 2010 is frozen in place: including billions of dollars in spending that even a liberal Democratic White House considers improvident.