The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


March 28, 2013

The 80,000-Plus Budget-Cutting Ideas That Got Away



"This is sort of a no-brainer," Obama said.

But then his administration applied the idea just to Korzeniewski's small agency within the Treasury Department. Not the whole government. Not even the whole department. The savings — which might have been $182,000 per year government-wide — were $16,000.

In a telephone interview, Korzeniewski was asked: Wasn't your idea meant to be applied much more broadly?

There was a pause. Korzeniewski was sitting with a government public-relations official.

Then, a whisper: "You can't speak for other agencies."

Korzeniewski said he could not speak for other agencies.

THE GOP'S EFFORT: 'YouCut'The Republican effort was led by House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, R-Va. It was a three-step process, to be repeated weekly: The GOP would suggest three choices. The public would choose. Then the House would vote.

"We will . . . put on to the floor, each and every week, bills that cut spending and reduce the federal deficit," Cantor told reporters in January 2011. After Republicans took control of the House, the program worked as advertised. Six winners. Six votes. One of the chosen ideas was defeated by the full House. The other five passed. Some of the ideas had an obvious partisan bent: cuts to programs in Obama's signature health-care law, cuts to funds for "community organizing" and programs to save energy.

But the voters also chose budget-cutting ideas that Obama had endorsed:

— Defund the much-criticized Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation.

— Kill a redundant program to support educational TV.

— Stop sending abandoned-mine cleanup payments to states that are no longer cleaning up abandoned mines.

They added up: Altogether, the GOP projected that its 36 winning ideas could save the government $253 billion over 10 years.

But, as time passed, the House fell behind. The seventh YouCut bill, for instance, got out of committee, but it never got a vote on the House floor. But nine winning YouCut ideas — with a potential savings of $10.7 billion — disappeared without being written up as legislation at all.

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