WASHINGTON — With the stroke of his pen, President Barack Obama sacked souvenirs federal agencies buy with taxpayer money to promote their work.
The ban he signed Wednesday is part of a broader executive order to cut some $4 billion in waste and make government more efficient. Some office equipment will be more scarce, and fewer cellphones and laptops will be issued.
Obama has been using his executive powers on modest proposals — Wednesday's order targets trinkets like coffee cups, T-shirts and pens — to promote job creation and help homeowners.
With such orders, signed in Oval Office ceremonies, Obama is trying to demonstrate that he is engaged in measures large and small and to distinguish himself from what he argues is an unproductive Congress. Lawmakers are working on a much bigger scale — cutting deficits by at least $1.5 trillion in the next 10 years.
"It doesn't replace the importance of work the Congress needs to do in coming up with a balanced, bold plan to reduce our deficit," Obama said as he prepared to sign his administrative order. "But it indicates once again that there are things that we can do right now that will actually deliver better government, more efficiently, more consumer-friendly for less money."
The order also instructs federal agencies to rely more on teleconferencing than travel and to reduce the fleet of vehicles.
Overall, Obama aims to cut spending in the areas mentioned in the order by 20 percent.
OBAMA ADDRESSES BLACK JOBLESSNESS: President Barack Obama acknowledged Wednesday that black Americans have faced "enormous challenges" with unemployment under his watch, and appealed for their support in pursuing solutions that he can implement without help from Congress.
At a White House summit of black business, community and political leaders, Obama said the current 15.1 percent unemployment rate among blacks is "way too high" — the overall unemployment rate is 9 percent — and that other problems that plagued black communities before he took office, such as housing and education, have worsened.
Noting that his proposed American Jobs Act is still pending in Congress, Obama made a plea for ideas "where we don't have to wait for Congress."