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White House solicits public input on eliminating agencies

The White House has created a curious gimmick, which allows Americans to vote on eliminating government agencies.
The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty)
The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. 
Seven years ago, House Republicans unveiled an online gimmick they were excited about, which was called "YouCut." The way the system was set up, GOP lawmakers would offer the public five options for cutting government spending; Americans would vote online; and then the House would force a vote on the top vote-getter the following week.In practice, the whole endeavor was rather silly. The public wasn't given any real information about the spending or the associated programs; the Democratic-led Senate didn't much care about the House's stunt; and the whole initiative was forgotten soon after.It appears, however, that the concept behind "YouCut" is making something of a comeback. New York magazine reported the other day:

The White House moved forward with its effort to drastically reduce the size of the federal government [last week], directing agencies to produce a plan to reduce their personnel.... The changes outlined in a 14-page memo issued by [OMB Director Mick Mulvaney] were based on the budget outline President Trump released last month, which called for sharp cuts to many agencies to finance large increases in military and Homeland Security spending.Many were taken aback by Trump's proposal to slash funding for agencies like the EPA, State Department, and Health and Human Services, and eliminate many smaller programs like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts.But if anyone has even more radical ideas, the White House is all ears.

And to that end, the White House has created an online tool in which -- you guessed it -- Americans can vote on which federal agencies should be scrapped.Visitors are asked, "What agency would you like to reform?" and are presented with dozens of options. That's followed by the second question, "What agency would you like to eliminate?"As with "YouCut" seven years ago, people who visit this website aren't given any information about these agencies, what they do, how much money they receive, or how many people work there. The idea that most Americans are familiar enough with the inner workings of obscure federal offices to have an opinion on whether those offices should exist seems a little far-fetched.The punch-line, however, is that the online menu includes "Executive Office of the President: Full Department" as one of the offices people can vote to "reform."People cannot, however, vote to eliminate it.The White House, which requires participants to include a fair amount of personal information in order to cast a "vote," will collect submissions through June 12. I have no idea what Team Trump intends to do with the tabulations -- or the information they collect on those who take part in this exercise -- but I have a hunch they'll have about as much substantive value as the House GOP's "YouCut" stunt in 2010.