If we're going to make the investments we need, remarked President-elect Barack Obama in 2008, we must also be willing to shed the spending we don't. . . . We cannot sustain a system that bleeds billions of taxpayer dollars on programs that have outlived their usefulness or exist solely because of the power of a politician, lobbyist, or interest group. A noble statement, yet we struggle to recall a single program that ceased to exist during the Obama years.
Every president in modern times begins his administration by claiming a righteous desire to cut public expenditures that serve no useful purpose. George W. Bush proposed a bipartisan sunset review board to recommend the elimination of unnecessary programs, to little effect.
We are eliminating programs that are no longer needed, said Bill Clinton in his first State of the Union address, characteristically merging intention and reality. We're slashing subsidies and canceling wasteful projects.