The President's Budget Cuts: A Wee Scratch, Not An Amputation

| February 7, 2011 | 5 Replies

Last Sunday, the President’s budget director Jacob Lew took to the pages of the New York Times to spread the good news that Barack Obama is a born-again budget cutter because he has announced some $775 million in cuts to his 2011 budget. To make sure we knew just how serious the President is about the cuts he announced, Lew used many serious phrases such as “this will not be easy”, “tough choices”, “deeper cuts”, “not easy”, “difficult cut”, “tough calls”, and “tough choices and deep cuts” so we’d know just how tough and deep and not easy the President’s cuts are.

To be sure, $775 million dollars is a lot of money. I’m sure we’d all be very happy with just one percent of that amount in our bank account. However, to our Brobdinganagian federal government, it’s small potatoes. Very small potatoes.

How small? Well, consider that the budget the President submitted for 2011, the one with these bowel-loosening cuts in it, clocks in at about $3.83 trillion. The President’s cuts come to a smidgen over 0.0002 of that amount. Yep, you read that right — the President’s deep, tough cuts are two ten thousandths of the total, or two hundredths of one percent.

You’ve lost a bigger percentage of your yearly salary in the sofa cushions in a week.

Don’t believe me? Read on.

Photo courtesy of The MegaPenny Project

Maybe it’d help if we visualized the President’s “difficult” cuts in relation to his overall budget. Let’s think in terms of pennies. Ten thousand dollars is approximately one million pennies. That’s a stack of pennies almost a mile high or, if you like, a flat layer of pennies a bit less than 4000 square feet. One million pennies weighs over 3 tons.

Take two pennies — two ten thousandths of the whole — out of that pile of almost one million and you’ll have Barack Obama’s cuts.

Ouch. The pain, it is unbearable.

Here’s another illustration of the paucity of our President’s vaunted budget-cutting desire. In November, Ernst & Young released the results of its comprehensive investigation into the finances of the Department of Health and Human Services, a department that today takes up almost a quarter of the entire federal budget. The report said that the department had lost $794 million. Now I don’t mean lost in the business sense or lost like it had that money cut from its budget. Oh, no. Would to God either of those things had happened. When I say lost, I mean that the people running HHS have no earthly idea where 794 million dollars went. It’s gone. Evaporated. For all we know, Secretary Sibelius changed it all to coins and filled up a giant money bin so she and the Employee of the Week could go swimming in it like Scrooge McDuck every Friday.

Now here’s the thing. As painful and “tough” as the administration is making its budget cuts sound, the President cut less than one of his departments misplaced in just one year.

Maybe Barack Obama just has a low pain tolerance. Or maybe he has no real idea just how big our cuts need to be to bring the federal deficit to heel before it savages all of us. Either way, he’s not being serious and we need to impress upon him the need to get serious.

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Category: The Economy and Your Money

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