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Obama Names OMB Heads to Trim Federal Fat

For the second day in a row, President-elect Barack Obama today emphasized the need for federal belt-tightening during a press conference.

To help perform the budgetary surgery he says will be necessary, Obama announced his picks to head the Office of Management and Budget. He named Peter Orszag, the current head of the Congressional Budget Office, as OMB director, and Robert Nabors as deputy director.

Of Orszag, who served as an economic adviser to President Bill Clinton, Obama said, “he doesn’t need a map to tell where the bodies are buried in the federal budget.” Nabors, who has served as a top staffer on the House Appropriations Committee, presumably knows a thing or two about where to trim the fat from the budget as well.

After promising more information about how he plans to “scour the budget” to make meaningful cuts during yesterday’s press conference, Obama offered some guidelines today. From Obama’s prepared remarks:

This isn’t about big government or small government. It’s about building a smarter government that focuses on what works. That is why I will ask my team to think anew and act anew to meet our new challenges. We will go through our federal budget – page by page, line by line – eliminating those programs we don’t need, and insisting that those we do operate in a sensible cost-effective way.

Let me give you one example of what I’m talking about. There’s a report today that from 2003 to 2006, millionaire farmers received $49 million in crop subsidies even though they were earning more than the $2.5 million cutoff for such subsidies. If this is true, it is a prime example of the kind of waste I intend to end as President.

And we will also focus on one of the biggest, long-run challenges that our budget faces – namely, the rising cost of health care in both the public and private sectors. This is not just a challenge but also an opportunity to improve the health care that Americans rely on and to bring down the costs that taxpayers, businesses, and families have to pay.

That is what the OMB will do in my administration – it will not only help design a budget and manage its implementation, it will also help make sure that our government – your government – is more efficient and more effective at serving the American people.

Obama also said yesterday that a rare consensus exists among conservative and liberal economists on the need for a massive stimulus package.

With reports that federal deficits could top $1 trillion this year and a government that, by all appearances, is poised to try to spend its way out of this economic crisis, perhaps to the tune of trillions more, it looks like Orszag and Nabors clearly have plenty of work ahead.

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