A little gem from National Journal:

Hoping to trim $600 million in the next four years, several federal agencies and departments will start pooling their purchases of office printers, copiers, and scanners, administration officials told The Washington Post.  Starting this week, the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and Treasury, as well as the Social Security Administration, are slated to begin buying these items in bulk from 11 firms. The supplier list includes both larger companies like Canon and Lexmark, and some smaller, veteran- or minority-owned suppliers, The Post reports.

This plan will also force departments to closely scrutinize their equipment stocks. “One of the things we’ve discovered is that agencies don’t have a clue what they have,” Dan Gordon, the Obama administration’s top federal contracting official, told The Post. “They don’t realize how many cellphones and BlackBerrys they have.”

How has this not happened before? Large families know to shop at Sam’s Club or Costco to save money — and most people know to glance in the pantry before a grocery run to make sure they don’t repurchase items they already have. It took federal government officials this long to figure out they could be more cost-effective by buying bulk and taking stock of what they already possess?

But, then, it’s much easier to be free with other folks’ money than with your own.

This week, the president plans to unveil his deficit reduction package. If this early effort at increased efficiency is any indication, the proposals he puts forth will trim mere chump change from the federal budget. But, then, even the hard-won cuts that will supposedly proceed from the Super Committee don’t amount to much. As The Washington Times’ Joseph Curl explains, if politicians actually want to eliminate the deficit, they’d have to cut the federal budget by a third. If they want to be able to make a dent in the debt, they’d have to cut the budget by two-thirds. Maybe it’s not important to eliminate the deficit and debt. At this point, the general consensus is that it’s crucial to at least reduce it because the debt has simply grown too large, but, in the past, economists and politicians used to debate the relative drawbacks and merits of operating at a deficit and acquiring debt. Either way, it’s crucial to be unimpressed by paltry $600 million savings or deficit reduction proposals that do little more than pay lip service to the fact that we have a problem.