Pass the sledge

Myriam Marquez

March 17, 1993|By Myriam Marquez

REMEMBER when President Reagan brought in business mogul J. Peter Grace to find waste in the federal government?

Nothing much ever came of the Grace Commission's hard work -- 2,478 proposals in all that would have saved about $424 billion over three years. Congress never quite embraced the concept that government has to run more like a business to protect the holdings of its investors -- the American people.

Oh, but that was in 1984 -- before we shareholders (that's we, the people) wised up to the losses.

It started with, by today's standards, chump change -- the military spending $3,000 each for hammers that you could find for 10 bucks.

A $30 million toilet sent into space last year? Why, that's a bargain in today's government waste game.

So when President Clinton announced the other day that he was putting Vice President Al Gore in charge of stamping out waste in every government agency, you didn't have to be a Rush Limbaugh fan to appreciate the humor of it all.

Mr. Gore, the consummate Washington insider, is going to bring his Clean Team in to sweep in reforms, to make government run leaner, to save taxpayers' money? Yeah, right. And Rush is a closet Democrat.

All right, Mr. Gore may have a better chance today to persuade Congress than Mr. Grace did in the high-rolling 1980s. Mr. Gore may just get his old pals in Congress to go along and snip, snip at the costly red tape.

But Americans don't want ceremonial snipping. We want to use a sledgehammer on the bureaucracy.

That's why, if he really wanted to impress us, Mr. Clinton would have called on Ross Perot to do the job. For when Ross talks nowadays, the folks on Capitol Hill are (pardon the Perot pun) all ears.

Mr. Perot held court during a committee hearing last week in which members from both houses and both parties sought the Texas billionaire's advice on everything from cutting the federal deficit to health-care reform to whether he would categorize his state's superconducting super collider project as pork.

Even though Mr. Clinton didn't recruit Mr. Perot to cut waste, the Democrats in Congress seem to realize what's at stake. This week, House Democrats, led by freshmen and conservatives in their camp, offered a plan to cut spending by about $60 billion more over five years than Mr. Clinton proposed. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats proposed targets of $90 billion in cuts.

As Mr. Perot pointed out last week, there are uncritical lovers in Congress who see everything through rose-colored lenses (Democrats) and unloving critics who see only the negatives (Republicans).

Despite Mr. Perot's self-promotion in this political scheme, the result -- loving critics in Congress? -- may prove to be in the best interests of Americans. Pass the sledgehammer. Mr. Gore is going to need one.

Myriam Marquez is an editorial page columnist for the Orlando Sentinel.

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