NPR logo Obama Vows Serious Budget Review


Obama Vows Serious Budget Review

President-elect Obama announced the latest member of his circle of economic advisers Tuesday, giving Peter Orszag the nod as director of the Office of Management and Budget and promising to go through the federal budget "line by line" to eliminate unnecessary spending.

Speaking at his second news conference in as many days on the subject of his economic team and its goals, Obama said Orszag would oversee much-needed budget reform. Obama said keeping a line on spending was 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," he said.

"This isn't about big government or small government. It's about building a smarter government that focuses on what works," Obama added.

Orszag is currently the director of the Congressional Budget Office. Obama also introduced Robert Nabors as deputy OMB director. Nabors currently is staff director of the House Appropriations Committee.

As CBO director, Orszag "re-energized and reinvigorated the agency," Obama said.

If Orszag's appointment is confirmed by the Senate, he will head the White House office through which federal agency budget requests must flow.

The announcements follow the president-elect's picks on Monday of New York Federal Reserve Bank President Timothy Geithner as his Treasury secretary and Lawrence Summers, a former Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton, to lead the National Economic Council.

On Monday, Obama outlined a plan to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to jump-start the flagging economy and create or save 2.5 million jobs.

It also comes on the same day that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced details of an $800 billion bailout program designed to help stabilize the nation's financial system and prop up consumer spending.

Paulson said key markets for consumer debt, such as credit cards, auto loans and student loans, essentially came to a halt in October and that the new programs are aimed at getting lending back on track.

The president-elect said Orszag and Nabors, along with the appointments he announced on Monday, are not the "sum total" of his economic advisory team.

As an example of the kind of budget cuts that would be examined, Obama pointed to a report 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," he said.