President-Elect Names His Budget Director

Obama singles out aid to "millionaire farmers" as an example of waste.

Nov. 25, 2008 — -- President-elect Barack Obama appointed his new budget director today and ordered him to reform a federal budget that "bleeds billions" to help pay for the massive bailout of the economy.

Obama held his second news conference in two days, speaking hours after Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson laid out plans for another $800 billion to bolster the economy.

Obama has also promised his own stimulus plan, that could cost as much as $700 billion.

"If we're going to make the investments we need, we must also be willing to shed the spending we don't [need]," Obama said.

"We cannot sustain a system that bleeds billions of taxpayer dollars on programs that have outlived their usefulness, or exist solely because of the power of a politician, lobbyist or interest group," Obama said. "We simply cannot afford it."

The president-elect singled out a new report about crop subsidies.

"Let me give you one example of what I'm talking about," Obama said. "There's a report today that from 2003 to 2006, millionaire farmers received $49 million in crop subsidies even though they were earning more than the $2.5 million cutoff to qualify for such subsidies. If this is true, it is a prime example of the kind of waste I intend to end as president.

"Budget reform is not an option," he said. "It's a necessity."

Peter Orszag Named Budget Director

Obama's news conference was called to announce that Peter Orszag would become his director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Robert Nabors would be his deputy.

Orszag is currently the director of the Congressional Budget Office. Nabors has been the top staff aide on the House Appropriations Committee, which prepares spending legislation.

In giving them marching orders to comb through the budget and revamp federal spending, Obama said, "We are not going back to business as usual when it comes to our budget."

At another point, the president-elect said he had "a mandate to move the country in a new direction and not continue the same old practices that have gotten us into the fix we are in."

Obama appeared to acknowledge that the proposed federal bailouts, including the stimulus he has promised to enact when he becomes president in January, will create enormous budget deficits.

"As soon as the recovery is well under way, we need to set up a long-term plan to reduce the structural deficit and make sure we are not leaving a mountain of debt for the next generation," he said.

Obama indicated that he intended to put ideology aside.

"I think what the American people want more than anything is just common sense, smart government. They don't want ideology, they don't want bickering, sniping, they want action and effectiveness," he said.

Until this week, Obama had stayed reclusive after winning the election. He held a news conference Monday to announce key names of his economic brain trust, and he will hold a news conference on the economy Wednesday, his third in three days.

Obama's public statements on the economy prompted one questioner to ask the president-elect about the statement he made shortly after winning the election about not undermining President Bush because there could only be one president at a time.

"There is only one president at a time, and that's George W. Bush, and he will be president until I am sworn in on Jan. 20," Obama said.

Obama Calls for 'New Spirit of Ingenuity'

But because of the country's fiscal crisis, "it is important that the American public understands that I am putting together a first-class team ... and that we won't just stumble in" when Obama takes office.

Obama said he was confident the United States would overcome the still growing economic crisis "if we're willing to summon a new spirit of ingenuity and determination."

Echoing his campaign theme of "change," he said that he would charge Orszag and his team to "think anew and act anew to meet our new challenges."

On Monday, Obama nominated New York Federal Reserve head Timothy Geithner to be Treasury secretary and Lawrence Summers to head his National Economic Council. Christina Romer was picked to head the Council of Economic Advisers.