The Washington Post

Obama’s swag-cut order won’t hurt . . . for now.

President Obama’s executive ord er Wednesday requiring federal agencies to cut travel, equipment, vehicles and government-issued swag has sent federal officials scurrying to storerooms to see how long existing supplies can last.

Most all agencies give out mountains of mouse pads, pens, pads, binder clips, stress balls, baseball caps, t-shirts, tote bags and such at meetings and conferences.

Saving nickles and dimes and desk decor. (Wendy Galietta/THE WASHINGTON POST)

First, we’re told some agencies have warehoused years of swag — which Obama delicately called “extraneous promotional items” — to give out. This would include, he said, “plaques, clothing, and commemorative items.”

In addition, the order calls for overall cuts in travel, equipment and other expenditures “combined” of “not less than 20 percent.” So cuts in one category may offset the need to forego those fine sweatshirts.

A key factor, in addition to the amassed inventory, will be, as one wag put it, the “inventory depletion rate.”

That rate doubtless will be slowed by the order’s restrictions on employee travel, since less travel translates to fewer big conferences in places like Orlando or Las Vegas — the key swag distribution centers.

Prudent trims on the junk pushed out at each gathering — trims that would hardly be noticed -- will also cut the rate.

The swag cutback, unlike what the GOP styles as Obama’s “job-killing” regulations, will have virtually no effect on American jobs. That’s because most all of this stuff, even down to our official CIA baseball cap, is made in China.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.


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