- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Making the cut

The Obama administration has found a way to cut $100 million from the federal budget, and one of the items on the chopping block is an office inside the Department of Labor that, among other things,conducts oversight of labor unions.

Pursuant to President Obama’s April order that federal agencies come up with a way to eliminate $100 million in wasteful spending, White House budget chief Peter Orszag and Cabinet Secretary Christopher Lu gave the president a 20-page list Monday of items to cut.

One of the proposed cost-saving measures calls for disbanding the Employment Standards Administration, a part of the Department of Labor that houses the Office of Labor-Management Standards, which has the power to audit and investigate labor unions on corruption and embezzlement charges.

Mr. Orszag and Mr. Lu said eliminating the ESA’s assistant secretary and two deputy assistant secretary positions and administration office would save $1.75 million over the next 10 years.

The ESA closure was the only shutdown suggested on the list.

Other proposed cuts appeared to be more minor.

The Forest Service, for example, said it could save $1.8 million by making a decision to “no longer repaint newly purchased vehicles.” The Department of Justice is doing its part by giving up its travel agents and making travel reservations online, saving $4 million. The Department of Agriculture found its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services team could save $76,000 by canceling trips to Australia and Asia and possibly replacing them with conference calls.

“These proposals vary widely both in their content and in the scope of the savings they would produce,” Mr. Orszag and Mr. Lu wrote in their memo to the president. “They range from a Department of Defense plan to save $52 million in FY 2010 by replacing JP-8, the standard jet fuel used by the military, with commercial Jet A fuel plus the military additives, to a plan submitted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to digitize daily news clips - saving $1,000 per year for FY 2009-10. This variety of proposals reflects your guidance that even small savings can add up to make an extraordinary difference.”

Labor spokeswoman Dolline Hatchett said ESA would only be abolished as an umbrella organization, but all its functions, including investigative power over labor unions, would remain and be improved.

“The reorganization will abolish the ESA umbrella organization and name but will maintain the four component programs - the Wage and Hour Division, the Office of Labor Management Standards, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, and the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs,” she said in an e-mail.“The resulting streamlined organizational structure will significantly improve policy decision-making with respect to the four individual programs, as well as enhance the department’s responsiveness in enforcing key worker protection laws.”

Palin poll

Most people think former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin should stay home and tend to her children now that she’s stepped down from office, according to a poll conducted by Fox News.

Those polled were asked, “What do you think is the best job for Sarah Palin now that she has resigned as governor of Alaska?” The choices were president, vice president, television talk show host, college professor, homemaker, other, or “I don’t know.”

In the poll, 45 percent of Democrats, 18 percent of Republicans and 34 percent of independents said Mrs. Palin should be a homemaker, making it the top career choice for Mrs. Palin among Democrats and independents. Homemaker was the second-most popular professional option among Republicans. Their most preferred choice for the party’s 2008 vice presidential nominee was vice president.


“I don’t know about a presidential candidate, but I would never put anything past this stupid country.”

- HBO personality Bill Maher responding to a question posed by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about the prospects of Sarah Palin becoming a future presidential candidate.

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@ washingtontimes.com

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