Cut a latte or two out of your annual budget and you've just done as much belt-tightening as President Barack Obama asked of his Cabinet on Monday.
The thrifty measures Obama ordered for federal agencies are the equivalent of asking a family that spends $60,000 in a year to save $6.
Obama made his push for frugality the subject of his first Cabinet meeting, ensuring it would command the capital's attention. It also set off outbursts of mental math and scribbled calculations as political friend and foe tried to figure out its impact.
The bottom line: Not much.
The president gave his Cabinet 90 days to find $100 million in savings to achieve over time.
For all the trumpeting, the effort raised questions about why Obama set the bar so low, considering that $100 million amounts to:
--Less than one-quarter of the budget increase that Congress awarded to itself.
--4 percent of the military aid the United States sends to Israel.
--Less than half the cost of one F-22 fighter plane.
--7 percent of the federal subsidy for the money-losing Amtrak passenger rail system.
--1/10,000th of the government's operating budgets for Cabinet agencies, excluding the Iraq and Afghan wars and the stimulus bill.
Obama only asked his Cabinet secretaries to identify waste in their annual operating budgets, which total a little over $1 trillion. He's leaving out war costs, the economic stimulus measure, the Wall Street bailout and benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare.
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Monday, April 20, 2009