Barack Obama, penny pincher

The president asks his Cabinet to come up with $100 million in budget cuts -- but his 2010 budget as a whole is more than $3.5 trillion.

Published April 20, 2009 5:00PM (EDT)

The White House is making a big show out of President Obama meeting with his Cabinet on Monday morning and asking members to come up with $100 million in budget cuts in the next 90 days. That might be a step in the right direction, and of course, every dollar counts, but in the scheme of the federal budget, it's small potatoes.

Let's be honest: $100 million is what the federal government would find if it just searched its collective couch cushions. It's not even pocket change when compared to overall spending -- it's the pocket change you forgot you had. The president has proposed a $3.5 trillion budget for 2010; $100 million amounts to just .0029 percent of that.

Update: The New York Times' Paul Krugman weighs in with a criticism of something the president said after the Cabinet meeting, "$100 million there, $100 million here, pretty soon, even in Washington, it adds up to real money." Krugman writes:

Let’s say the administration finds $100 million in efficiencies every working day for the rest of the Obama administration’s first term. That’s still around $80 billion, or around 2% of one year’s federal spending.

OK, politics is theater. But you could argue that the president shouldn’t feed the bogus claim that we can close fiscal gaps by eliminating a bit of waste.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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