Since taxpayers are otherwise occupied, having to work to earn the money that is taken from them by the government, we don’t actually have the time and access to hold our bureaucratic friends accountable for how they spend our money.
But occasionally word seeps out.
Such as the recent Inspector General’s report that found the Justice Department had purchased muffins for $16 each at a 2009 conference.
Now, the $16 muffin has instantly become legendary, like the Pentagon’s hammer, which we’ve seen priced in both the $400s and $700s over the years. But both are just the tip of a mostly unseen iceberg.
Reading further just into this latest report, one finds that the Justice Department – and we’ll bet plenty of others – holds conferences regularly at glitzy resorts. Lunch at a conference
at a Hilton in San Francisco went for $76 a person. Cookies and brownies, you’ll be relieved to know, were a relative bargain compared to muffins: $10
The Obama administration, to its credit, is taking steps to review all conference spending – and presumably a word to the wise has been sent. The administration also says the Bush administration was responsible for some of the event planning, which is entirely possible. The Bush administration was hardly a thrifty one.
But this is a reminder of how wasteful our federal government is – and at a particularly auspicious moment for such a reminder, with the congressional “super committee” poised to recommend ways to lower deficit spending. And, of course, with financial markets receding, unemployment high and economic projections bleak, there’s never been a better time to get government spending in line. By shaming it, if that’s even possible anymore.
The fact that we need reminders is just another indication of our out-to-lunchness: Back in March, we got another landmark report from the Government Accountability Office that, as Citizens Against Government Waste noted, “identifies 34 agencies, offices, and initiatives that provide similar or identical services to the same populations, along with 47 programs that are either wasteful or inefficient. It includes 18 nutrition and food assistance programs, 47 job retraining programs, and 80 economic development programs, along with $77 billion of waste at the Department of Defense and $125 billion in improper payments by government agencies, among many others.”
Yet, what has happened as a result of that report?
When are Americans going to be mad enough at all this waste to hit the streets in protest?
No time soon, apparently. In fact, it’s never been more fashionable in liberal and media circles to argue that the government just doesn’t have enough of our money! Billionaire Warren Buffett says the rich aren’t taxed enough, and Democrats and their cheer-leading media are more than happy to accommodate him. No regard whatsoever is being given in such coteries as to how responsible or accountable the government is with that money.
Report after report after
anecdote tells you that it’s not very.
The federal deficit and debt are so gargantuan that, at some point, additional revenues will undeniably be required to help balance the books. But the best way to increase revenues to the government is to get the economy going again and have more workers and vibrant companies paying more in taxes. You get there, first, by creating a climate conducive to job growth: with tax rates and regulations that allow a healthy flow of goods and services.
In the meantime, government spending must be cut in order to unburden the private sector – and, with any luck, trim the fat. Until that’s done, our leaders have no right to ask for one muffin more.
There’s a famous children’s book called If You Give a Moose a Muffin – in which a child finds that the more you give a moose, the more he’ll want.
The same applies to governments.