Today President Obama finally gave his answer to the nearly 1 million people who showed up a last weeks tea parties. In his first meeting of the full cabinet he directed his government to take the next three months and come up with $100 Million to give back to the American people. That’s not $100 Million each, that’s $100 Million total. It is almost as if the President of the United States heard our cry and threw us a bone, albeit a very tiny bone.

Lets put that $100 Million in perspective:

  • It would pay for about 1/3 of Alex Rodriguez’s Contract
  • Would fund lest than one-quarter of the budget increase that Congress awarded to itself.
  • Less than half the cost of one F-22 fighter plane.
  • About 80% of the Cost of one Prime Time TV commercial in February 2009
  • Equals about 1/10,000th of the government’s operating budgets for Cabinet agencies, excluding the Iraq and Afghan wars and the stimulus bill.

To put it another way, its as if President Obama told us to “keep the change.” At least that’s how the Washington Times framed it:

Thanks for the 35 cents

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President Obama ordered his Cabinet to cut $100 million from the budget yesterday. This charade shows that Mr. Obama heard last week’s “tea-party” protests against government spending. It also proves that popular pressure can force some fiscal discipline.

The White House is using the cut to claim that Mr. Obama is keeping his campaign promise “to go through the federal budget line by line, page by page” cutting wasteful government programs. But yesterday’s tiny effort works out to about 35 cents per American. That’s less than a drop in the spending bucket.

By comparison, the stimulus bill Mr. Obama signed into law on Feb. 17 was $787 billion. That’s almost 8,000 times more money. Yesterday’s episode is only newsworthy because government expenditures have risen so much that it’s getting easier to mix up what budget numbers are intended to be in millions, billions or trillions.

Mr. Obama’s actual campaign promise was bolder and called for a “net spending cut.” During the third presidential debate, moderator Bob Schieffer asked Mr. Obama how he was going to pay for all his new spending proposals. The candidate’s reply was that “there is no doubt that we’ve been living beyond our means and we’re going to have to make some adjustments. Now, what I’ve done throughout this campaign is to propose a net spending cut.” When Mr. Schieffer pressed him on how he was going to accomplish this net cut in spending, Mr. Obama offered his “line by line, page by page” promise.

In the second presidential debate, Mr. Obama promised that “actually I’m cutting more than I’m spending so that it will be a net spending cut.” It hasn’t worked out that way. The budget deficit this year is $2 trillion. In case that looks like a typo, the deficit with all the zeroes in it is $2,000,000,000,000. That’s 20,000 times as much as yesterday’s $100,000,000 cut. If President Obama is serious about his campaign promise to deliver a net spending cut, he needs to zero out a few more zeroes.