* Obama seeks to trim spending in non-essential areas
* White House says to save $4 billion over a year
By Malathi Nayak
WASHINGTON, Nov 9 U.S. President Barack Obama
asked government agencies on Wednesday to slash $4 billion in
spending on things like travel, printing and coffee mugs, in
his latest effort to sidestep Congress and help the economy.
The White House order on cost-cutting is the latest in a
series of small-scale initiatives Obama has been carrying out
that do not require congressional approval.
By taking the executive actions, the Democrat is trying to
put pressure on opposition Republicans to work with him on his
$447 billion jobs package and other legislative proposals, and
blame them for failing to act in the country's best interest.
Wednesday's order urges agencies to use teleconferences and
videoconferences to cut down on travel and to reduce printing
costs by making more information available electronically.
Government bodies are also being encouraged to limit the
number of laptops, cellphones, smart phones and other devices
issued to bureaucrats and workers to cut unnecessary costs.
The federal vehicle fleet used to taxi government officials
around Washington would also see its budget cut, from a current
estimated $9 million per year.
Obama told reporters at the White House the order would cut
spending in the targeted areas by 20 percent.
"At a time when families have had to cut back, have had to
make some tough decisions about getting rid of things that they
don't need in order to make the investments that they do, we
thought that it was entirely appropriate for our governments
and our agencies to try to root out waste, large and small," he
said during a short signing ceremony.
In attention to operations-related budget items, the order
also calls for less spending on "swag" -- promotional clothing,
branded coffee mugs and other gadgets and memorabilia that
government agencies sometimes buy with tax dollars.
Items emblazoned with the presidential seal are commonplace
in and around the White House and on the president's aircraft,
Air Force One, and are highly coveted by foreign dignataries as
well as other visitors.
White House spokesman Jay Carney did not say how the order
would affect spending at the White House. Most leading
companies and schools also spend some money on branded goods
for marketing and other purposes.
Obama's series of small-bore executive actions have been
criticized for being largely symbolic and a political ploy,
rather than a genuine boost to the U.S. economy which has been
growing slowly with unemployment at 9 percent.
By drawing attention to spending on government spending in
non-essential areas, Obama risks raising questions about why
those budgets have not been trimmed already in a time when
Washington's debt and fiscal strains are a major concern.
An administration official said the estimated $4 billion
saved by the measure would be reinvested in "things that really
matter" like "our nation's infrastructure to help grow the
economy and create jobs."