Obama to propose plan for leaner government

John Dimsdale Jan 13, 2012

Jeremy Hobson: Later this morning President Obama is expected to outline a new plan to shrink government. He’s going to ask Congress to give him the authority to merge some departments and agencies. First up, he wants to consolidate six government offices that deal with trade and commerce.

Our Washington bureau chief John Dimsdale joins us live from D.C. with more. Good morning, John.

John Dimsdale: Hey Jeremy.

Hobson: Well what do we know so far about what the president’s going to announce?

Dimsdale: He’s going to say that there’s way too much duplication and inefficiency throughout the government, and he’d like the authority to combine a lot of offices that have all sorts of overlapping duties.

For example, he’ll say today that he can save $3 billion over ten years by merging a bunch of trade and business agencies, like the U.S. Trade Representative and the Export-Import Bank and the Small Business Administration.

Hobson: OK, save $3 billion — what’s wrong with that?

Dimsdale: Well, the problem is all these government offices are like little fiefdoms, with powerful political sponsors.

Here’s Paul Light, a government professor at New York University.

Paul Light: All these agencies are owned by congressional committees and subcommittees, and it’s difficult to do without some sort of expedited authority that provides an up and down vote.

So the president’s going to ask Congress to commit to an expedited vote for his government trimming proposals. And Light figures there could be plenty of savings — if the president could do this throughout the government, there’d be as much as $100 to $150 billion saved, which would be a tenth of the deficit.

Hobson: But John, is the president likely to get new authority from this Republican Congress, especially in an election year?

Dimsdale: Yeah, it’s going to be tough with all this gridlock. But Republicans say that they support leaner government, and the president will ask them to step up to the plate, even though they’re going to be reluctant to give this president any additional power.

Hobson: Marketplace’s Washington bureau chief John Dimsdale. Thanks John.

Dimsdale: Thank you.

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