- The Washington Times - Friday, November 11, 2011

President Obama is burning a hole in Uncle Sam’s pocket. Since he won the White House in 2009, the public debt has swelled by $4.3 trillion. Instead of trying to stem this flow of red ink, Mr. Obama is campaigning for more spending with a $467 billion stimulus bill. He doesn’t get it. Conservative candidates for his job are ready to sew up the hole.

At the Michigan debate on Wednesday, Rick Perry’s cringe-inducing memory lapse drew attention away from serious proposals to rein in reckless expenditures. The Texas governor said that he’d save money by getting rid of “three agencies of government, when I get there, that are gone: Commerce, Education and the - what’s the third one there? - let’s see.”

He meant to add the Department of Energy as part of a strategy that includes cutting $100 billion in nondefense, discretionary spending in his first year; capping spending at 18 percent of gross domestic product (GDP); freezing bureaucrat salaries and hiring; repealing Obamacare; and ending baseline budgeting.

Ron Paul suggested in the debate that Mr. Perry up the ante and name five departments to eliminate. The Texas congressman wants to close the Perry three, plus Housing and Urban Development and the Interior Department.

Mitt Romney tried to rescue Mr. Perry by offering the Environmental Protection Agency for the chopping block. The former Massachusetts governor recently unveiled his own plan to cut spending modeled on the congressional Republican “Cut, Cap and Balance” bill. He would immediately adopt the House GOP budget, which was ignored by Senate Democrats, to scale back nondefense, discretionary spending to pre-Obama 2008 levels.

“We can’t continue to put at risk the greatest nation in the history of the earth because of the profligate spending that’s going on in Washington, D.C.,” he said.

By the end of his first term, Mr. Romney aims at trimming spending from the current 24 percent of gross domestic product to 20 percent. He estimates that would cut $500 billion from the budget in 2016 alone.

Big government programs would be eliminated, slashed or sent back to the states. He’d eliminate Obamacare, saving $95 billion; he’d erase Title X Family Planning Funding ($100 million); privatize Amtrak ($1.6 billion); reduce foreign aid ($100 million); and cut back liberal slush funds at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities and the Legal Services Corporation ($600 billion).

Mr. Romney would shrink the bloated federal employee rolls by 10 percent, saving the taxpayer $4 billion. He’d also tie the compensation of the remaining bureaucrats to their private-sector counterparts, saving $47 billion. According to a recent analysis of the census, the average compensation for a federal employee in Washington, D.C. is $126,369.

The government can no longer spend so profligately without consequence. America has lost its AAA credit rating, suffers from 9 percent unemployment and is teetering on the brink of a double-dip recession. Finding a president willing to bring the federal government’s outlays back to reasonable levels will be the most important task for voters next year.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.