From time to time, presidents have put together independent panels to study ways to cut government waste and inefficiency.
In 1982, President Ronald Reagan created the Grace Commission, named for its businessman chairman, to conduct such a review. Nearly three decades later in 2010, President Barack Obama formed the Simpson-Bowles commission, named for the two senators, to point the country in a fiscally sustainable direction.
Not surprisingly, the findings of both commissions ended up gathering dust after entrenched special interests howled with disdain at their prescriptions for cutting the budget or restraining entitlements.
Will Donald Trump’s foray into the bureaucracy bear more fruit?
On Monday, the president signed an executive order that gives the administration’s budget director a year to come up with a plan to eliminate “unnecessary agencies.” The order, USA Today reported, “will require departments and agencies to identify wasteful spending, duplicative programs and potential improvements to government services.”
Putting the spotlight on individual departments to identify waste may bring to mind the fox-and-henhouse maxim. But Thomas Schatz, who as president of Citizens Against Government Waste has spent three decades fighting for a leaner federal government, expressed optimism that Mr. Trump may be the man to get something done.
“I think the plan is different because in the past, the agency heads were not asked to submit this plan themselves,” he told USA Today. “The disrupters have returned to Washington.”
Some critics argue that bureaucratic resistance will eventually overwhelm Mr. Trump’s effort to root out waste, as it did to the recommendations offered by the Grace Commission and the Simpson-Bowles panel. Maybe. But perhaps this president’s unorthodox approach to Beltway politics will yield unconventional results.