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What's on Obama's chopping block

From health care in Alaska to payments to farmers to store cotton, president identifies federal spending he says the country can live without.

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By Jennifer Liberto, CNNMoney.com senior writer


WASHINGTON (CNNMoney.com) -- Even on the campaign trail last year, President Obama pledged to cull waste from the budget. On Thursday, he pulled back the curtain on his plans.

All told, Obama put 121 government initiatives in the cross hairs for reductions. Dozens of them face outright elimination.

"Some programs may have made sense in the past -- but are no longer needed in the present," President Obama said. "Other programs never made any sense; the end result of a special interest's successful lobbying campaign."

Congress still has to sign off on the president's proposed cuts, and already some lawmakers were crying foul.

But Obama got the process started. Here are ten programs or grants that could be ended or cut back because the administration considers them obsolete, duplicative or a waste of money.

Alaska job training: Program is "duplicative" because state receives other types of funding for job training. Savings: $3 million.

Cotton storage: Cotton is the only agriculture crop whose farmers get paid to store until prices rise. Savings: $52 million.

Close-Up fellowships: "Noncompetitive" grants used to bring thousands of students and teachers to Washington, D.C., for a week of political and government education. Savings: $2 million.

Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation: Foundation with "high overhead" costs helps pay for programs that reward scientists and researchers, but has not "demonstrated clear outcomes" for its awards. Savings: $1 million.

Anthrax vaccine research: Program that paid for clinical trials to improve the anthrax vaccine had already achieved goals. Savings: $8 million.

Inter-city bus security grants: Pays for bus service to support security facility upgrades and driver protection. Payments go to private companies that are now using it to buy GPS tracking systems, which could be bought "without federal funding." Savings: $12 million.

Alaska health care: Pays for new construction of health facilities in Denali, Alaska. Savings: $20 million.

Delta health initiative: Pays for building new health care centers and training staffers in Mississippi. Savings: $26 million.

Public broadcasting: "Duplicative" grants helped pay for conversion of rural public TV stations to digital broadcasting. Savings: $5 million.

Ready to Teach: "Outdated" program pays to develop educational video programming for teachers, but was created in 1995 before the Internet made such training cheaper, more efficient and more widespread. Savings $11 million.

Of course, for Obama, now comes the hard part -- getting his proposals through Congress.

It didn't take long for lawmakers to push back. For example, one Department of Education program on Obama's list is Even Start, which was started in 1988 and funds early childhood education, parenting and family literacy classes for low-income families. Studies have shown no difference in families that receive Even Start services and those who did not, according to the administration. The cut would save $66 million.

But Even Start has a defender: Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., who rescued the program from the chopping block during the Bush administration.

"Even Start is a valuable program that focuses on ensuring low-income children under the age of 7 get a fair start in life," Ross said. "While I believe we must cut spending in order to address our national debt, it should not be done at the expense of our children or their futures."

- CNN's Joshua Levs and Virginia Nicolaidis contributed to this report. To top of page

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