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EDITORIAL: Not so fast, Mr. President

There is lots of low-hanging fruit for the plucking

- The Washington Times - Monday, March 11, 2013

The president says any cuts to the federal leviathan would harm women, children and maybe their puppies and kittens -- and so far he's been able to get away with this fib. Now, the government's own inspectors general are collectively saying: "Not so fast, Mr. President."

These watchdogs serve as "the eyes and ears of Congress embedded within the federal bureaucracy," and they've identified $67 billion in rampant waste, fraud and abuse. In a report Tuesday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee collected and tallied the value of all the unimplemented recommendations from the internal auditors.

Since President Obama took office in 2009, money-saving ideas have continued to sit on a shelf, collecting dust. Four years ago, there were 10,894 recommended reductions, compared with 16,900 reductions, worth an additional $30 billion, awaiting action today. Since those "figures reflect the most conservative possible accounting" of the number of recommendations, their value is likely to be "significantly higher," the committee explains.

That's quite a contrast to the endless parade of sky-is-falling scenarios broadcast by the Cabinet during the sequestration fight over a mere $85 billion reduction in the rate of spending growth. The auditors' $67 billion in savings is low-hanging fruit, ripe for the plucking, that could easily fund the Departments of Energy, Transportation and Interior, the Social Security Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation and the Small Business Administration in their entirety. Not, it goes without saying, that all of them actually deserve full funding.

Appearing Tuesday night on Greta Van Susteren's "On the Record" show on Fox News Channel, Rep. Darrell E. Issa, the oversight panel's chairman, says his report only scratches the surface. "We're looking at about 7 percent of the budget that falls in this category, which means there's about another $210 billion per year of this kind of waste."

Mr. Obama can certainly share some of the blame with his predecessor, George W. Bush, who ignored many of the proposals offered by the inspectors general. The difference is, Mr. Bush never conjured imaginary tales of budgetary horror while sitting on a stockpile of 10,000 alternative cuts that would make the government stronger and more focused, if implemented.

The legislative branch has just as much of a duty to identify and eliminate extravagant outlays as the executive. So Mr. Issa, California Republican, last week demanded answers from the chiefs at each of the major governmental departments about what unnecessary programs they intend to drop to prevent across-the-board reductions from touching the rarest of beasts -- a government program that might actually be useful.

Unfortunately, the rest of Congress is rushing to avoid conflict by passing yet another continuing resolution that funds the government through the end of the fiscal year at essentially status quo spending levels, despite the sequestration. Absent leadership from the White House, the only way to get agencies to act on money-saving ideas is to rewrite the laws to provide incentives for savings. The longer the recommendations sit on the shelf, the longer taxpayers will be stuck holding the bag.

The Washington Times

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