Today, in announcing his choice of Nancy Killefer as “Chief Performance Officer”, President-elect Barack Obama echoed Ronald Reagan in describing the type of change he intends to bring to Washington:
We committed to change the way our government in Washington does business so that we’re no longer squandering billions of tax dollars on programs that have outlived their usefulness or exist solely because of the power of a lobbyist or interest group. We can no longer afford to sustain the old ways when we know there are new and more efficient ways of getting the job done.
Even in good times, Washington can’t afford to continue these bad practices. In bad times, it’s absolutely imperative that Washington stop them and restore confidence that our government is on the side of taxpayers and everyday Americans.
The president-elect thus promises to do what the man he will replace in thirteen days has failed to do, root out wasteful government spending.Â But, even as he proposes to eliminate wasteful programs, he warns of “trillion dollar deficits [becoming] a reality for years to come.”
With his multi-hundred billion dollar stimulus package, he will make real those deficits.Â His policies are thus at odds with verbal commitment to fiscal discipline.Â By contrast, the Gipper, whose type of change the president-elect favors (rhetorically at least) came to office during similarly difficult economic times and proposed cutting rather than increasing domestic outlays.
Holding the line on federal spending and cutting taxes, Ronald Reagan helped promote an economic expansion which lasted for approximately a quarter-century.
I am delighted the the president-elect recognizes the need to cut government waste, an issue near and dear to the hearts of the Republican rank and file, yet neglected by the great majority of our elected leaders for the past eight, if not ten, years.Â And I’m heartened that Obama “will ban earmarks” from his stimulus package.
But, it’s that stimulus package which undermines Obama’s rhetorical commitment to curbing government waste.Â Should he abandon that stimulus package or at the very least offer one with corresponding cuts in bloated federal programs thus acting on this promise to cut government waste, he could reshape the political landscape, making the Democrats the party of fiscal discipline.
Given the GOP’s failure to curtial — or even contain — domestic spending, the President-elect has an incredible opportunity, yet he faces a Democratic Congress which favors more and more federal intervention in the economy and is not likely to look favorably on the elimination of any government programs.
Let us hope that after he takes office on January 20, Barack Obama remembers his words today, words similar to those who offered during the campaign and in the transition.Â The change he has sold to the American people, on domestic issues at least, resembles that Ronald Reagan offered, holding the line on government spending and eliminating wasteful programs.
But, so far his policies have not matched that rhetoric.Â Even as Mr. Obama proposes eliminating such programs, he has made clear his intention to fund new ones.Â Not a good idea for a government with trillion-dollar deficits “for years to come.”