Obama’s budget team

OBAMA’S BUDGET TEAM…. Yesterday, the president-elect introduced his economic team. This afternoon, Barack Obama returned to the podium to announce his budget team: Peter Orszag as the director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Robert Nabors as the deputy director. They’re pretty impressive folks who’ll no doubt serve the nation well.

One thing that came up during the brief event in Chicago is Obama’s intention to cut wasteful spending from the budget.

“[I]f we’re going to make the investments we need, we must also be willing to shed the spending we don’t. In these challenging times, when we are facing both rising deficits and a sinking economy, budget reform is not an option. It is an imperative. We cannot sustain a system that bleeds billions of taxpayer dollars on programs that have outlived their usefulness, or exist solely because of the power of a politician, lobbyist, or interest group. We simply cannot afford it.

“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.”

Given that the times call for increased government spending, what is Obama planning to cut? He offered an example: “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.”

Responding to some questions from reporters, Obama added that he’d earned “a mandate to move the country in a new direction and not continue the same old practices that have gotten us into the fix we are in.” He added, however, that “we enter into the administration with a sense of humility and a recognition that wisdom is not the monopoly of any political party.”

Sounding another pragmatic note, Obama also said, “I think what the American people want more than anything is just commonsense, smart government. They don’t want ideology, they don’t want bickering.”

And if an ambitious, progressive policy agenda just happens to look like commonsense, smart, non-ideological government, so be it.