Opinion

America needs the Bobs

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Lisa De Pasquale
Former Director, CPAC
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      Lisa De Pasquale

      Lisa De Pasquale is a writer based in Alexandria, Virginia. She is the former director of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Follow her on Twitter at @LisaDeP.

In the movie Office Space, a software company brings in two outsiders (the Bobs) to identify waste and cut unnecessary employees and practices. One employee reveals he has eight bosses and only does enough work to not get hassled by any of them. Another employee screams that he is the only one who can deal with the customers because he has “people skills.” Yet another employee was unknowingly laid off but still receives a paycheck every week because of a glitch in the system.

Welcome to the federal government times a trillion.

In the corporate world, outside consultants are typically brought in because senior executives know that department heads are biased toward their own departments’ spending. Employees are reluctant to identify waste or bad practices when they have skin in the game.

Members of Congress are the department heads of government. That’s why we need outsiders — not a congressional super-committee — to cut government waste. We need the Bobs.

A bipartisan super-committee of 12 has been tasked with cutting $1.5 trillion in spending. Obviously, Congress does the exact opposite of what common sense tells us. Rather than objectively evaluate government spending, those who benefit most from an industry seek those committee assignments.

The Washington Independent reports:

Members of the super-committee are no strangers to corporate donations — most have received millions from industry groups and corporate PACs in the past — but the size of the budget cuts “has set off a frenzy among lobbyists on K Street, including nearly 100 identified by The Washington Post as former employees of super-committee members.”

However, the issue isn’t that this particular group of 12 has connections to K Street. It would be impossible to put together a group of any 12 people in Congress without finding a connection to K Street.

The issue is that lobbyists are just like members of Congress: they’re department heads. Neither group will cut the programs that benefit their industries or districts.

We need outsiders to identify government spending cuts based on effectiveness, not loyalty. We need the Bobs.

Last year, Majority Leader Eric Cantor introduced a website called “YouCut,” which allows constituents to take part in spending cuts.

According to his website:

YouCut — a first-of-its-kind project — is designed to defeat the permissive culture of runaway spending in Congress. It allows you to vote, both online and on your cell phone, on spending cuts that you want to see the House enact. Each week that the House is in session, we will take the winning item and offer it to the full House for an up-or-down vote, so that you can see where your representative stands on your priorities.

There have been seven pieces of legislation introduced as part of the programs voted on by YouCut. Only one (the very first) even made it to a committee hearing. It was a valiant effort, but even conservative members of Congress don’t have enough distance between themselves and government spending. Their talk of fiscal responsibility will always ring hollow when things like ethanol subsidies still exist. However, when times are tough the American people can usually be counted on to do what’s best for the country. Recall Senator Ben Nelson, who made a deal with Senate Democrats for his vote on Obama’s health care plan. The “Nebraska Compromise” exempted Nelson’s state from having to pay billions more in Medicaid costs under the plan. Nebraska Governor David Heineman said voters would punish the senator. “The last few days have made Nebraskans so angry that now it’s a matter of principle,” said Governor Heineman.

Hopefully, Nebraska voters will still be angry when they see Senator Nelson’s name on their ballots next year. If they do, it will show members of Congress that their constituents are willing to put aside pork projects in order to do what’s best for America.