January 13th, 2012
08:00 PM ET

Letters to the President #1089: 'Streamliners'

Reporter's Note: I write to the president every day. Sometimes, I wait until really late just to see if he might call and ask if something is wrong. So far, the answer is no.

Dear Mr. President,

Here it is half past dark and I still haven’t sent today’s letter your way! Why if I worked for you, I’d fire me! I mean, seeing as how you’re in a firing mood. Ha!

I’m joking of course.

I was watching your announcement earlier today about wanting to reduce the size of the federal government, and I thought “Well, that is certainly going to bring a few howls.” After all, no matter how well intentioned you may be, what you are talking about is doing away with jobs, and you’ve seen the way the sharks are circling around Romney over that.

I realize that these are wildly different circumstances. He was in the private sector talking about private money; you’re in the public sector talking about taxpayer money, so it’s not exactly oranges and oranges, is it? Still, it’s potentially thin ice.

Almost certainly, if you get this maneuver approved, you will be on the trail shortly talking about how you decreased the size of government. Just as certainly, your opponents will be screaming that you expanded it first, and don’t deserve much credit now. And once again, voters will be left somewhere in the middle wondering which came first: the expansion or the cuts, and where precisely is “zero” in this equation?

If the answer is not clear by that time, I’m not sure you’ll get much credit for this one.

It’s not my place to measure your motives, but certainly you know that many voters (particularly those who don’t much like or trust you) will see this as a crassly political move. To be sure, it looks like the typical triangulation of the “center” that we see from all sorts of presidents and wannabes when elections starts bearing down.

Anyway, if it works I guess we can all sort it out then.

But I will say this: If you really intend to do this, you’ve got your work cut out for you. An awful lot of elected leaders over the years have promised to streamline government in a lot of places, and I’m not entirely sure I’ve ever seen those plans really work. Maybe it’s because the population keeps getting bigger, but government always seems to expand, and streamlining usually turns out to be just another word.

Hope all is well. Call if you can. Did you notice how the temperature has dropped? Yikes.


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