The president's latest go-it-alone attempt to spur the economy

Actually, this one I rather like. His student loan reforms might have delivered a damaging message for little gain and his mortgage refinancing proposals might ultimately be pointless — but, with this latest move, at least President Unilateral doesn’t legislate through the executive branch. He just demands through an executive order that his administration, well, execute its business more efficiently:

The effort is aimed at reducing spending for travel, technology devices, printing, motor-vehicle use and swag by about 20%, according to the White House. The total amount saved is unclear, but the White House said the Department of Commerce alone would save $3 million this year by stopping service to 2,648 wireless devices that weren’t used over the past three months, including some assigned to retirees and former staff. …

The executive order also includes consolidating drivers for senior government officials – a move that the White House says would save $100,000 a year – as well as reducing paper transactions at the Treasury Department, and limiting travel by increasing the number of video and teleconferences.

To be sure, whatever the federal government will save by this measure will amount to no more than chump change — just eight minutes’ worth of federal spending, according to some estimates. (And let’s not even ask why the federal government presently pays for unused wireless devices for retired workers.) It is and always will be a fiction that we can eliminate the deficit just by cutting waste. Meaningful entitlement reform must factor in somewhere. But that’s not an excuse to not cut waste — every little bit helps — and this is a step that it is actually right and appropriate for the president to pursue. (If the president is really serious about cutting travel expenses, he’ll also support Sen. Tom Coburn’s already-introduced-but-stalled-thanks-to-Democrats bill to slash federal travel spending by 75 percent, but that’s probably too much to hope for.)

It embitters me a little to think he’ll use this — just as he used his more questionable student loan and mortgage reforms — to bolster his “active president against a do-nothing Congress” narrative (voters, please remember the Forgotten 15!), but that can’t be helped. Politicians in general are notoriously apt to do whatever necessary to take credit for success and to avoid blame for failure — and the president proves that rule more than most. In the meantime, at least this measure doesn’t appear poised to harm the economy, like so many of the president’s partisan proposals would. That’s something to be grateful for, at least.