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Published:May 9th, 2009 20:53 EST
President Barack Obama

Obama Seeks To Remove $17 Billion In Budget Spending

By Christopher HIllenbrand

Executing a vow he repeated at his inauguration speech on Thursday, President Barack Obama requested for Congress to remove or cut back on 121 federal programs, to the tune of $17 billion in budget savings for the next fiscal year. A bulk of the cost-effective ideas pitched by Obama were rebuffed by the President`s allies on Capitol Hill in the past under the previous administration.

Capitol Hill

While the relatively paltry measures seem quite attainable given their scope, Obama affirmed that "none of this will be easy" in the grip of a tightening economic recession.

His latest plans to slim down the amounting deficit of the federal government only add up to a half a percent of the $3.4 trillion federal budget legislation passed by the Democratic-led Congress last week.

The Republican minority jumped at the chance to criticize the president for proposing measures that are far too small.

House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said: "The resulting savings are relatively minor compared with the government`s fiscal woes."

Countering the Republicans` argument that his budget cuts were comparably minute to the extravagant trillions the government is ebbing, President Barack Obama cited that any amount, large or small, retained by the government shows that the change in politics signifies a return to accountability.

"Some of the cuts we`re putting forward today are more painful than others," Obama said. "Some are larger than others. In fact a few of the programs we eliminate will produce less than a million dollars in savings. Outside of Washington, that`s still a lot of money."

The president acknowledged that Americans are making their own sacrifices in this stressful climate and demand to hear whether or not Washington "is prepared to act with the same sense of responsibility."

In response to the referenced question, Obama said: "I believe we can and must do exactly that," in front of media representatives and cameras at a White House conference.

The budget cuts for the fiscal year, set to start Oct. 1st, were outlined in an complement to the wider 2010 budget plan, which President Obama put forth back in February that Congress has begun to ready for in the meanwhile.

Despite explaining the ideas in the budget package, the president has not yet transcribed the proposals to legislation form.

White House budget director Peter Orszag announced Obama`s plan for reducing spending is merely a stepping stone toward the U.S.`s long-term goal in completely absolving its financial burdens. The ailing Medicare and Medicaid health care programs directed mainly at the elderly and the poor are two of the most important plans of action in the administration`s agenda.

"But $17 billion a year is not chump change by anyone`s accounting," Orszag said.

Republicans have a legitimate contention with Obama`s intentions with the money that will be saved under his budgetary slashes. Obama has compiled a 2 and a 1/2 inch thick ledger of the programs that will see moneys from the $17 billion redistributed into their accounts. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle contend that most of that money should be used to shore up the deficit, that has now become the highest-ever.

Though the keypoints of Obama`s financial reform for 2010 were made public in February, many of the specifics, such as the price increase for airline travel to pay for airport security operations, will be released by the end of next week.

One of the programs scheduled to be completely dismantled, the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, is forecast to be a hot topic among constituencies where it`s removal may affect them the most. Legislators from the strongly-represented California, Florida and New York contingent are predicted to support the program`s practicality, which allots money to states to cover the costs of imprisoning illegal immigrants who commit crimes. During the previous eight years of the last administration, President George W. Bush attempted to do away with the $400 million program several times and was vetoed every time.

Among the other initiatives, Obama recommended cutting down earmark projects pressed by members in Congress. He suggested eliminating a $10 million West Virginia highway project proposed by Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W. Va, in addition to a $15 million allowance requested by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., for a series of diesel emission reduction grants.

The Environmental Protection Agency, which accounts for 301 earmarks this year, will also see a sizable reduction in government spending as Obama introduced cutting $145 million from an agency-run clean water program.

Obama has made a point in not trimming down the earmarks provided in the $410 billion comprehensive spending package bill signed into law in March.

Ongoing opposition, from allies and adversaries alike, has been a salient feature for Obama`s budget proposals in recent history.

Even Obama`s political colleagues rejected the president`s ideas concerning shutting down production on C-17 cargo aircraft and cancelling grants given to farmers with annual revenues over $500,000, in a budget plan passed by Congress targeted at protecting those payments to farmers.

A House Committee is weighing the benefits of asking for another $2.2 billion to produce 8 C-17 models after Obama requested further funding for the war efforts overseas.

Estimately half of the budget gleanings would result from notions put forward by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to curtail particular defense programs, some of which include scrapping the manufacture of the F-22 fighter jet and terminating the production of a troubled fleet of replacement helicopters, which has gone well beyond budget.

Obama is currently meting out the details of the $1.3 trillion from the budget he asked Congress to enact through appropriations bills for the next fiscal year.

Spokespeople for the administration also requests that crop insurance subsidies should be retooled to trim $5.2 billion from federal expenditures over the next decade, and to eliminate $25 million more from a program that will finance relocating rail lines due to community developments.

At the same time that Congress has started working through the logistical figures in an upcoming war bill to fund military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan into the fall of 2009, Obama has already deliberated on a $130 billion proposal for next year`s military operations and brought it before Congressional leaders. The figure may not be accurately portrayed, as military action in Afghanistan is being escalated and has not been thoroughly analyzed from a financial standpoint.

The running tagline for the Obama administration`s stance on cutting down wasteful spending has been "a line by line basis", in determining what programs are absolutely essential to the country as a whole and which are expendable. But after a presidential term aging beyond 100 days, Obama has yet to make the necessary cutbacks to dig the country out of the deficit hole that is bound to reach new unprecedented heights of $1.5 trillion or more by the end of the year. The Treasury put the National Debt, by its last estimate in April, at $10.7 trillion.

The majority of the spending cuts reflect many of the same supported by President George W. Bush, which were turned down by the more balanced Congresses during his presidency. A detriment to the president`s own aim in reducing porkbarrel spending, the president`s budget was approved by many of the same Democrats that now oppose his latest savings proposals who have subsequently shaved close to $10 billion from Obama`s appropriations requests through the ratification of his $3.4 trillion budget plan in April.

Highlighting some of the most obvious waste from the updated budget plan, the president plans to eradicate the Education Department`s attache in Paris, which will save $632,000 yearly, and the antiquated LORAN-C marine navigation system, which receives $35 million a year even though it`s been obsolete since the satellate-operated Global Positioning System became the government`s fully operational tracking program in April 1995.