Fiddlin’ Foresters take the fall

fiddling_foresters_pix.jpg By the end of this year, the national debt will be more than the country’s GDP, but it won’t be the Fiddlin’ Foresters’ fault.

President Barack Obama, in this video about cutting waste, targeted the Fiddling Forest Rangers. He said the government pays to operate their Web site. “I’ll put their music on my iPod, but I’m not paying for their Web site,” the president declared.

Within hours after the release of the video, the foresters — and their fiddles — were history.


Who knew cutting waste could be this easy?

But if a Web site dedicated to the Fiddling Foresters is a waste of government money, why does the government even have the Fiddling Foresters, the official “old-time string band of the US Forest Service?” From their doomed Web site (the cached version):

The band has performed at national conservation meetings, state fairs, the 2002 Winter Olympics, other international events and seminars, the National Western Stock Show, teacher workshops, elementary schools, national celebrations, open houses and various Forest Service meetings and events. They travel with complete costumes, sound system, stage lights, rear-screen projection system with PowerPoint visuals and video, props, and instruments. Depending on the occasion audience members often receive a tri-fold brochure that highlights appropriate conservation messages and the performance program.

The president Obama appointed VP Joe Biden to root out the waste, and he ordered an aggressive first step — no more Web sites.

Starting right now, there is a freeze on all .gov URL’s. This means no one can get a new one without a written waiver from the federal CIO, Vivek Kundra. Facing this constraint, agencies will focus on their current infrastructure, adding content and functionality to existing websites.

Vivek Kundra is the country’s chief information officer. By the way, he’s got a Web site — Which do you think had more page views: Kundra’s or the Fiddling Foresters?

How much does this really save? Hardly anything. The Fiddling Foresters hadn’t updated their Web site in months, so no one was being paid to update it. That pretty much leaves the cost of the domain name — a $10 per year savings. Assuming a $13.8 trillion deficit, we only need to shut down 138 billion government websites to get out of this jam.

In today’s announcement, there was no mention of the blockbuster story from the Los Angeles Times today. The biggest cash airlift — nearly two dozen C-130 planes stuffed with money — in the history of the country has resulted in what may be the biggest theft of government money in history:

This month, he Pentagon and the Iraqi government are finally closing the books on the program that handled all those Benjamins. But despite years of audits and investigations, U.S. Defense officials still cannot say what happened to $6.6 billion in cash — enough to run the Los Angeles Unified School District or the Chicago Public Schools for a year, among many other things.

For the first time, federal auditors are suggesting that some or all of the cash may have been stolen, not just mislaid in an accounting error. Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an office created by Congress, said the missing $6.6 billion may be “the largest theft of funds in national history.”

How many Web sites will the government have to shut down to get its $6.6 billion back?