Thursday, September 22, 2011

ArmChair Obama™: How Do You Reel In Wasteful Government Spending?

No need to lie, as a guy who's spent a sizable portion of his professional career doing government consulting, I know firsthand how inefficient and wasteful some agencies can be. I've witnesses scores of employees sit around and do nothing more than play solitaire and watch the clock.[1] I've seen other contractors take 3 hour lunches at L'Enfant Plaza while billing their agency $250/hour. If someone had the guts to tackle these blatant wastes of government resources, that guy might gain my vote. Of course, this won't ever happen because despite whatever hot air they might blow on the campaign trail, no candidate would bother trying to unravel such nonsense.

Speaking of nonsense and government waste.
Where does a muffin cost more than $16?

At a government conference, it turns out.

They may run just over $2 at your average coffee shop, but the Justice Department paid seven to eight times as much at a gathering it held at the Capital Hilton in Washington. And on Tuesday, the muffins seemed well on their way to joining the Pentagon’s $600 toilet seat as symbols of wasteful spending.

Justice Department auditors also criticized a $76-per-person lunch at a conference at a Hilton in San Francisco, featuring slow-cooked Berkshire pork carnitas, hearts-of-romaine salad — and coffee at $8.24 a cup.

A report released Tuesday by the department’s acting inspector general, Cynthia A. Schnedar, is full of what she called “wasteful or extravagant spending” at 10 law enforcement conferences spanning the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. Descriptions of cookies and brownies costing the government nearly $10 each and beef Wellington hors d’oeuvres at $7.32 per serving struck a nerve in Washington, where austerity and belt-tightening are the watchwords at a time of economic hardship.

Even the auditor’s report noted the irony that Justice was failing to fully “minimize” costs as required under guidelines put in place after an audit in 2007, when the department had drawn criticism for serving platters of Swedish meatballs costing nearly $5 each.

Overall, in 2008 and 2009, the Justice Department held or participated in 1,832 conferences at a cost of $121 million, the report said.

Most of the conferences studied were held or planned during the Bush administration, and the report included a May 2009 memo from then-Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden vowing that the Obama administration would crack down on conferences and other “extravagant spending, especially during these challenging financial times.’’

The event that raised the most eyebrows — the 2009 legal training conference in Washington sponsored by Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review — was held three months after the Ogden memo. It featured 250 assorted muffins for $4,200, or $16.80 apiece, and $2,880 for 300 cookies and brownies, along with various pastries and snacks.
Just so we're clear, this is nothing new. I'm sure the anti-ObamaBots will throw the blame at his feet, and probably try to tie this to Eric Holder, and somehow tie it back to the Black Panthers[2]. That's just how the guilt by association logic game works.

Oddly (and don't shoot the messenger here!) if nothing else, these outlandish expenditures signal a need for more government to me. All of these events were presumably catered by contractors who mark up food to outlandish degrees, knowing nobody will bother actually looking at the itemized receipt before issuing payment. If the government had its own catering service, maybe the costs for such events would be easier to contain.

Either way, what a lovely waste of taxpayer dollars. Play ArmChair Obama™ and fix this.

Question: What would you do to remedy this sort of wasteful spending as President? Does this sort of wasteful spending piss you off too?

[1] Says the guy who (occasionally) blogs at lunchtime.

[2] Note: no $82 beanpies were procured.

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