On Spending Cuts, Politicians Prefer Gimmicks

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The latest report by the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold on Beltway tomfoolery tells of what happened when both Democrats and Republicans asked government workers and the public for suggestions on how to reduce government spending. Apparently neither party had much interest in the responses.

Fahrenthold first looks at the Obama White House’s effort:

After President Obama set up a national online suggestion box asking federal workers for new ways to cut the budget, 86,000 ideas came in Some, inevitably, were a little odd. 

…But many others were more serious, sent in by people who had seen real government waste close up: stop the “use it or lose it” budgeting policy, which leads agencies to blow taxpayer money at year’s end; stop giving paper calendars to workers who already have online calendars; stop letting every armed service design its own camouflage. 

In the end, none of those things happened. Instead, those suggestions became a little-known part of the maddening story of Washington’s budget wars.

…Obama, for instance, chose 67 suggestions out of those 86,000. While some produced results, many seemed unambitious. Often, the administration picked ideas that applauded what it was already doing, instead of forcing it to start new reforms. Still, the White House considers that a win. 

Of course it does

Fahrenthold then turns his attention to the GOP’s “YouCut” website. Created in 2010 and run by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, regular Americans were to be given menus of potential spending cuts, and they were asked to vote for one. Winning ideas were then supposed to go to the House floor for a vote. In the end, only two of the 36 winning ideas became law. No bill was introduced for nine of the winning ideas, and 12 were “introduced only,” which means that they never even made it to the floor for a vote. 

Like the administration and its online suggestion box, Cantor’s office claims that YouCut was a success: 

“The purpose of the YouCut program was to change the culture of Washington,” Rory Cooper, a spokesman for Cantor, said in an e-mail. “Today, as is evident to anyone paying attention, that culture has been changed.” 

Of course it has

And now that the “culture has been changed,” it appears that the people’s input on spending cuts is no longer needed: 

YouCut appears to be dead. No new votes have been held in the current Congress. Cantor’s spokespeople did not respond to questions about the program’s status this week. 

Note: For more on the awesomeness of the GOP’s YouCut endeavor, see commentary from Chris Edwards and me hereherehere, and here