President Barack Obama said last night in his State of the Union address that, in fact, the state of the union is strong. But, that’s not stopping him from tweaking it just a little.
The big news was a proposed five-year discretionary spending pay freeze. That includes all of the programs vying for funding each year but excludes mandatory programs, such as Social Security and Medicare.
But another headline-grabber was Obama’s promise to reorganize and streamline the federal bureaucracy, consolidating and merging agencies, departments and programs.
As evidence of an overly complicated network of government agencies with often redundant tasks, Obama cited the dubious regulatory authorities surrounding salmon, not passing up a chance to do so in a tongue-in-cheek fashion.
“The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them in when they’re in saltwater,” he explained. “And I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked.”
On the issue of the spending freeze, Obama said, because the “worst of the recession is over,” the government must begin making headway on balancing what it spends and what it takes in.
“Every day, families sacrifice to live within their means. They deserve a government that does the same,” he added.
Obama said some cost savings had already been achieved through leveraging the power of technology.
“We have made great strides over the last two years in using technology and getting rid of waste,” he said. “Veterans can now download their electronic medical records with a click of the mouse. We’re selling acres of federal office space that hasn’t been used in years, and we will cut through red tape to get rid of more.”
The last time the federal government was overhauled in such a dramatic fashion was in the era of black and white TV, Obama said. While no specifics were mentioned, the idea, at least, appears to have garnered some amount of consensus.
Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said in a statement “identifying, reforming and eliminating the redundancy and waste in government is an area in which there should and will be common ground.”