General embarrasment

Agency's lavish spending spree is insulting in a down economy
General Services Administration Administrator Martha Johnson resigned in disgrace this week, after a report detailed an extravagant conference held by federal employees near Las Vegas in October 2010.

Yes, there are plenty of models in starched white shirts and silk ties available for the next “CEOs Gone Wild” video. They’ll pull up those shirts and reveal their buff bellies and their sexy dollar-sign tattoos.

But you know, we all talk about the “excesses of capitalism” as if such excesses were confined to capitalism –as if overdoing it were endemic to the free enterprise system.

It’s not. Any system devised by man is going to feature
dilation and distension.

Enter the United States government.

It’s never been particularly thrifty. But during one of the roughest economic patches in our nation’s history, with
millions out of work – and after the president had once decried the irresponsibility of jetting off to Vegas – it turns out a federal agency played host to a lavish excursion for 300 of its workers at a Nevada resort spa and
casino in October 2010.

The General Services Administration – which, interestingly enough, is charged with writing the rules for other federal agencies to follow in holding conferences – spent $820,000 on the trip to the M Resort Spa and Casino in Henderson, Nev. The rule-breaking expedition included a $95-a-plate dinner, a $31,000 “networking” reception and $7,000 in sushi.

GSA head Martha Johnson resigned in disgrace this week, but only after firing two deputies and suspending others, following a scathing report by the Inspector General.

This is your government at work, folks. “Bureaucrats Gone Wild,” anyone?

What an insipid scandal, and in such times of want across the land.

Still, the episode may actually be quite revealing of a larger problem: the out-of-control growth in the federal government.

As national columnist Star Parker noted on this page Tuesday, government spending has risen from 20 to 25 percent of the entire American economy in the past four years. And while the unemployment rate has ranged from 8 to 10 percent, unemployment in Washington, D.C., is but 5.7 percent – and its population growth of 2.7 percent was the highest in the nation last year.

Washington’s economy has expanded 14 percent since 2007.

“While we suffer,” Parker writes, “Washington parties.”

And she didn’t even know about the GSA scandal.

The Nevada junket included a $3,200 session with a mind reader. The thing is, that’s the only good part about all this. We’d absolutely love to know what these folks were thinking!

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