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It's that time of year again. President Obama is asking Federal employees to submit their ideas to his widely advertised SAVE Award to make government operations "more effective and efficient and ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely." The lucky winner of the annual contest gets to present his or her cost-cutting idea "to President Obama in person" (wow!!!).

http://www.whitehouse.gov/save-award

The stated purpose of the initiative is noble, so what objections to such a program could one possibly have?

The unfortunate truth is the SAVE Award is a taxpayer-funded promotional campaign for our President with no actual leadership involved and pocket change for savings. The winning SAVE Award ideas from 2009-2012 were invariably uncontroversial doodads that require no significant tradeoffs, burning of special interest groups, or decision-making of any kind. In past years, the SAVE Award forums quickly filled with much-favorited submissions such as "End the War on Drugs," "Fire Useless Employees," "Stop Going on Expensive Vacations," or "Sell Nancy Pelosi's Public Jet," only to have these leading submissions flagged and scoured by a team of online moderators.

The winning SAVE entry last year (2012) was that "all Federal employees who receive public transit benefits shift from regular transit fare to the reduced senior fare as soon as they are eligible." The previous year's (2011) selection was "creating a centralized tool repository - or 'lending library' - where [NASA] tools can be stored, catalogued, and checked in and out by NASA employees."

Not exactly game-changing stuff there, is it?

The SAVE Award exclusively - and by design - selects one-time gimmicks with modest savings to keep from embarrassing the President with scandal while presenting an airbrushed public appearance of being concerned with reducing costs. All this culminates in a gushing and grandiose photo-op with the Celebrity-In-Chief. The clear progressive implication is - not only are these politically safe proposals the best ideas out there for cutting government spending- but we can maintain a lean and effective government through technocratic tinkering alone.

Based on the track record, it's difficult to argue the SAVE Award is anything more than a publicity stunt with little-to-no value to those actually concerned with efficiency of government operations. Don't expect the Affordable Care Act to make an appearance in SAVE 2013.

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