Let's hope this isn't just another case of "Here we go again," but, here we go again. President-elect Obama has created the new White House position of "Chief Performance Officer," assigned to eliminate government programs that might waste taxpayer money. No, this is far from a new idea. What's the big difference between Obama's Chief Performance Officer plan and all the past attempts to cut waste from government spending? This one had better work.
As his first Chief Performance Officer, President-elect Obama wants Nancy Killefer to "scour this budget, line-by-line, eliminating what we donít need, or what doesnít work, and improving the things that do." Of course, what Obama really needs to do that is the line-item veto, ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1998. Assuming Obama won't get what he really needs to cut out waste, what are the chances a Chief Performance Officer can get the job done? Judging from history, flat bad.
Presidential attempts at waste-busting go way back. In 1937, Franklin Roosevelt appointed the Brownlow Committee. The Hoover Commission came, and went, during the 1940s. President Clinton gave the Grace Commission a try in 1982, and President Reagan launched a National Partnership for Reinventing Government in 1993. Yet here we are, starting 2009 with the federal government $1.2 trillion in debt. Oh, what we could buy with $1.2 trillion.
In the states, where you can't just print more money when you run out, efforts to save the taxpayer's money haven't worked so well, either. Certainly no better example of "fail" at the state level can be found than California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's 2004 plan to "blow up the boxes." Unfortunately, the boxes blew up in his face.
While Schwarzenegger hasn't abandoned his "boxes," California's government now has no money or budget, will be closed two Fridays-a-month and is on the verge of having to issue I.O.U.s to taxpayers for their 2008 state income tax refunds.
As to President-elect Obama's Chief Performance Officer? Letís hope itís different this time.
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