By Thomas M. DeFrank
Daily News Washington Bureau Chief
CHICAGO—Ratcheting up his campaign to persuade jittery Americans he's on the case and feels their financial pain, President-elect Obama named his budget director today and vowed to overhaul wasteful, business-as-usual spending.
"If we're going to make the investments we need, we must also be willing to shed the spending we don't," Obama said at his second press conference in as many days. "We cannot sustain a system that bleeds billions of taxpayer dollars on programs that have outlived their usefulness, or exist solely because of the power of a politician, lobbyist, or interest group. We simply cannot afford it."
Obama nominated Peter Orszag, director of the Congressional Budget Office, to run the Office of Management and Budget.
He ordered his new chief numbers-cruncher to scour the federal budget line-by-line for sacred spending cows that should be axed.
"Just because a program, a special interest tax break or corporate subsidy is tucked into this year's budget does not mean it should survive the next," Obama said. "The old ways of Washington simply can't meet the challenges of today and tomorrow."
"This isn't about big government or small government. It's about building a smarter government that focuses on what works," he added.
His 19-minute press conference wasn't intended to generate major news, unlike Monday's announcement of his treasury secretary and chief economic advisers. Instead, Obama continued an effort launched last week to reassure Americans he'll be fully engaged in reversing the financial crisis the moment he's sworn in next Jan. 20.
"We don't intend to stumble into the next administration," he pledged. "We are going to hit the ground running."
To keep hammering home that psychological message, Obama will have another press conference tomorrow before winding down for the Thanksgiving holiday.