Obama Buys in Bulk, Saves… A Bit

President discovers incredible new way to save some money!

The wonderful thing about politics is that just when you thought you have heard everything, you have not heard everything. 

Case in point: Monday, President Obama had the first meeting of his full Cabinet (minus Health and Human Services Secretary-designate Kathleen Sebelius, who has not yet been confirmed by the Senate even though she went through the considerable trouble of paying her back taxes). 

Afterward, the president went before the cameras to say he has ordered his Cabinet secretaries to cut $100 million from their budgets as a sign of solidarity with a nation that has had to take “extraordinary steps in order to shore up our financial system.” 

Critics jumped on Obama’s $100 million cost-cutting plan as being too puny. “The administration’s new talk of trimming a meager .0025 percent from the $4 trillion federal budget just doesn’t square with its reckless record on borrowing and spending,” said House Minority Leader John Boehner. 

“I appreciate the efforts to save millions by identifying unnecessary or duplicative government spending,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, “but let’s not forget that at the same time they’re looking for millions in savings, the president’s budget calls for adding trillions to the debt.” 

Even some reporters thought the figure was downright skimpy. “The $100 million target figure that the president talked about today with the Cabinet, can you explain why it’s so small?” a reporter asked press secretary Robert Gibbs at the White House press briefing. Gibbs had a ready reply. “Only in Washington, D.C., is $100 million not a lot of money,” he said. 

But wait. This is not the good part. The good part is what Obama said next. The good part is one of the examples the president gave of the innovative, new-wave, cutting-edge, sharp-as-a-tack, out-of-the-box thinking that one member of his Cabinet has already come up with. 

Janet Napolitano at the Department of Homeland Security estimates that they can save up to $52 million over five years just by purchasing office supplies in bulk,” the president said proudly. 

To which I say: You mean the U.S. government DOES NOT CURRENTLY BUY ITS OFFICE SUPPLIES IN BULK? 

What does the government do? Send a guy down to the store every time it needs a ream of copier paper? 

Until Monday, did nobody in the Obama administration know that you could negotiate a little discount by buying, say, 10 or 12 million reams at a time? 

Where is Rahm? Rahm Emanuel could negotiate the spots off a leopard! Why is he not being used to his fullest capacity? Let Rahm be Rahm! 

OK, so he has been busy. But has nobody in the federal government ever shopped at Costco or Sam’s Club? Do they not have a pantry like I do, filled with one dozen 3-pound jars of extra-crunchy peanut butter and two dozen jars of dill pickles because you can get them cheaper that way? 

Hasn’t buying in bulk gone on for a long time in this country? I think George Washington bought blankets in bulk for the troops at Valley Forge. Where did we lose this skill? 

No matter. In the future, because of Janet Napolitano, may her name forever be praised, our executive branch will buy its office supplies in bulk. 

Maybe Staples will even throw in a dozen free Sharpies. 

Roger Simon is POLITICO’s chief political columnist.

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