Obama's Final Four

by Noam Scheiber | December 10, 2009

No, not that final four. This final four, from the OMB blog:

[E]arlier this year, President Obama launched the SAVE Award — a program that offered every federal employee the chance to submit ideas about how government can save money and perform better. Over the course of three weeks, federal employees submitted more than 38,000 ideas. Staff at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) assessed the submissions and narrowed them down to the final four ideas presented below.

Voting began on Monday and will only remain open until 11:59pm tomorrow [that's Thursday]. Already, we’ve received over 65,000 votes — so don’t miss out on your opportunity to help choose the winner. The person whose idea is voted the best will get to meet the President, present the winning idea directly to him, and have that idea included in the FY2011 Budget.

Suffice it to say, none of the ideas being tossed around here (see below) is going to impress any self-respecting budget hawk. But simply making some high-profile efforts to scrimp and save, even if its budgetary pocket change (or a rounding error on budgetary pocket change), probably sends an important symbolic message to voters worried about out-of-control spending. Particularly at a time when cutting the deficit is basically off the table because the economy is so weak. It's an issue I get into toward the end of my piece on the deficit today.

For what it's worth, this Washington Post piece has details on the four finalists:

Julie Fosbender works for the U.S. Forest Service at Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. She suggested that each national forest should deposit its revenue at a nearby local bank, instead of sending the money to a central processing facility. ...

Huston Prescott works for the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Alaska and noticed that different federal housing agencies sent different inspectors to the same subsidized housing units to conduct similar inspections. Prescott wants HUD to send just one person to do the inspections for all of the agencies. ...

Nancy Fichtner works at the Department of Veterans Affairs' Medical Center in Grand Junction, Colo. She wants the department to permit veterans leaving VA hospitals to take any leftover medication home with them. Otherwise the hospital just throws the medicine out, wasting millions of taxpayer dollars. ...

Christie Dickson works for the Social Security Administration in Birmingham, Ala., and wants the agency to give people the option to schedule their appointments online instead of only over the phone.

Very shrewd of the administration to select finalists from these various locales. You get the sense that the finalists are being treated like they discovered one of Willy Wonka's Golden Tickets or something. Hard to believe the news would have gone down quite the same way in New York or Los Angeles.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/the-stash/obamas-final-four