BIG CUTS, SMALL PLATES.

Peter Orszag lists off a couple of the programs the administration is eliminating. Included among them is this winner of an expenditure:

Educational attaché, Paris, France ($632,000). The Department of Education can use e-mail, video conferencing, and modest travel to replace a full-time representative to UNESCO in Paris, France.

Some enterprising reporter should figure out who the last educational attache was and ask what was costing them $600,000. But snark aside, it's no real surprise that these cuts are minimal -- about one-half of one percent of the budget. The Obama administration has been in office less than four months. They've not had the time to rigorously evaluate every federal program, and probably haven't had time to rigorously evaluate the rigorous evaluations of every federal program.

Moreover, we don't sufficiently fund the analysis arms of the government: We've got the Government Accountability Office, but it's not funded at the sort of levels that would allow for a really rigorous examination of every federal program. You could imagine spending some money to set up something like the National Institute of Health that would, in turn, give grants to (or solicit grants from) academics and consultancies that wanted to study various federal programs. That would probably save some money in the long-term. On the other hand, a lot more data on this stuff would also militate towards expanding quite a few programs that work well, and I'm not sure the point of these exercises is to ensure the government is maximally effective so much as it is to generate some headlines that make the administration look thrifty.

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