As someone who works within a 3-wood from New York's financial markets, I found myself wandering over during a lunch hour to see for myself the five weeks and counting spectacle of the Occupy Wall Street protestors.

While most seemed earnest - if somewhat economically naïve - in their cause, I thought if they really wanted a common rallying cry, they need to look no further than what's happening with the Government Accountability Office.

The federal watchdog agency, which compiles some 1,000 reports and audits annually and is largely credited with identifying government waste - and by proxy taxpayer savings - would under a current proposal from deficit hawks, have its annual budget slashed from $546.2 million to $504.5 million, a 7.6-percent cut.

Despite the GAO's accomplishments in identifying billions of dollars in potential savings over the years, both House and Senate appropriations members who are charged with drafting the budget for the legislative branch, have included the investigative arm of Congress among the many agencies that will be forced to scale back as part of the sweeping 5.2 percent drop in overall congressional spending.

"The buck shrinks here," Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch, declared recently. He defended the proposed cuts saying they would force a number of agencies to "live with less."

Opponents of the GAO cuts point out that the budget decrease would prompt layoffs and potential closure of some of its regional offices as well as a new proposal that would mandate increased disclosure on the costs and manpower required to publish its reports.

Meanwhile, Senators Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn.,  and Susan Collins, R-Maine, petitioned that Nelson drop plans for the more detailed spending reports, claiming that the action could result in "a politicization of the GAO report process as members and committees are criticized for spending money on a GAO analysis."

Thus far, the GAO has been mum on the budget battle, but has been offering buyouts and early retirement packages to its veteran staffers.

I have a problem with whipsawing a budget for an agency that, for example, over the past year, identified billions spent on 81 different areas where the government has duplicative programs doing essentially the same thing. And no, that's not a misprint - 81!. Another one detailed the risk for fraud and abuse within 30 federal programs.

If the now-disheveled and largely disorganized redistributionists camping on Wall Street want a common cause, there's certainly one for the taking.

 

 

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