Acknowledging a “confidence gap” with taxpayers, President Obama on Monday ordered his Cabinet to find $100 million in total spending cuts over the next 90 days as a signal they are serious about spending money wisely.
“One hundred million there, $100 million here, pretty soon, even in Washington, it adds up to real money,” the president said after meeting with his Cabinet at the White House, saying he will require them to cut at least 100 specific programs.
The president said the cuts, while not big, “send a signal we are serious” about looking for savings. He said the money, which he said will come from agencies’ administrative costs, needs to be saved so it can be spent on higher priorities such as health care.
The White House said agencies have already been working on cuts including the Agriculture Department’s consolidation of personnel to save $62 million over 15 years on leases; the Homeland Security Department’s decision to buy office supplies in bulk to save $52 million over five years; and Veterans Affairs canceling or delaying 26 conferences to save $17.8 million.
Mr. Obama has proposed cutting the budget deficit in half by 2012 and promised to go “line by line” through the budget to scrap programs that don’t work. But his first go-around, proposing cuts to agriculture payments and to reducing the tax deduction high-income taxpayers can take for charitable giving, were both rejected by Democrats and Republicans in Congress.
And congressional critics said the cuts pale in comparison to his spending so far, which includes a $787 billion economic stimulus bill and his proposed budget.
The deficit this year is projected to be well more than $1 trillion and Mr. Obama called for spending to reach $3.6 trillion in 2010. The $100 million goal is less than three thousandths of a percent of that 2010 budget.
“At the same time they’re looking for millions in savings, the presidents budget calls for adding trillions to the debt,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.
“The $100 million may not be a lot to people in this town, but I think it’s a lot to people who live in this country,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.
• Jon Ward contributed to this report.