Back when the government still valued every cent

I’ve reported before on the tireless efforts of the Bureau of the Budget under Brig. Gen. Lord to root out government waste and to drive down the deficit.

In a bit of correspondence from 1928, it appears that Gen. Lord didn’t shy away from demanding that the White House join in these efforts. This is all a bit quaint, but sometimes one wishes the government would be as savings-minded as it was in Coolidge’s day.

Here, Lord relates a new scheme to place a reminder of the cost of letters on each correspondence clerk’s desk:

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Pecking away at waste and extravagance

I have a sense that after decades of budgetary profligacy, America may be in the mood for more economy and efficiency in government, exemplified by leaders such as Governors Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie who are showing an almost Coolidgean willingness to take on spending excesses.

I haven’t tallied up the numbers and don’t know whether our situation is similar to, or possibly even exceeds, the fiscal calamity America found itself in after World War I caused an almost 20-fold increase in the national debt. In other posts I have begun to report on the efforts by presidents Harding and Coolidge, and their respective Directors of the Budget, to instill a sense of purpose and urgency at all levels of the federal bureaucracy but can’t resist adding a little item on General Lord, second Director of the Budget, taken from the book The Office of Management and Budget and the Presidency, 1921 – 1979, by Larry Berman:

Lord actually checked employees’ desks for excessive use of official stationery, paper clips, and other government supplies. He also engaged in such quaint-sounding ploys as establishing a “Two Per Cent Club” for agency heads who trimmed that amount off their estimates, a “One Per Cent Club” reserved for the less efficient, and the “Loyal Order of Woodpeckers,” whose motto read: “All hail to the Loyal Order of Woodpeckers, whose persistent tapping away at waste will make cheerful music in government offices and workshops the coming year.”

Quaint as this may sound to the author of those lines, I can’t help but feel that it would be nice to hear that tap-tap-tapping sound emanate from government offices today – they sure would have their work cut out for them!

Please see also this more substantial post on the Business Organization of the Government.

Wielding a wicked budget axe…not

Reading as I am a history of the Bureau of the Budget, and being swept up a little by the budget-cutting enthusiasm of the early 1920s budgeteers under Charles G. Dawes, I am a little underwhelmed by the pusillanimous stance taken by today’s Office of the Management and Budget under its current head, Jacob Lew. Arguably, the state of the nation’s finances is in a worse mess today than it was following WW I. But at least at that time, there was a wide consensus that the national debt had to be brought under control. Anyway, read and weep the somewhat scathing account by Peter Suderman over at of the courageous assault by Lew and his cohorts on the calamitous deficits.