A Most Encouraging Scandal

As for the GSA people concerned getting fired, good riddance to bad rubbish.

But at a larger level, if a misuse of federal funds at this picayune level (relative to other Washington scandals) warrants a briefing of the President of the United States and coverage in the Washington Post, the citizenry is enjoying one of the cleanest administrations in living memory.


  1. Mark Kleiman says

    Note that if a defense contractor or Beltway-bandit consulting firm that gets all of its funds from Federal contracts had conducted a similar party, no one would have raised an eyebrow. The real scandal is the amounts of money and time that get wasted complying with dim-witted “anti-waste” provisions.

  2. Ebenezer Scrooge says

    Amen, Mark. With the exception of the courts and the imperial trappings of the Presidency and top generals, our federal government is guilty of conspicuous consumption of poverty. On the other hand, this is a democracy, and the demos probably wants it this way.

    (I’m not accusing Obama of being particularly imperial in lifestyle. The Praetorian nonsense comes with the job.)

  3. Ken Rhodes says

    I disagree with the above comments.

    The brouhaha has nothing to do with the attempt to save some trivial amount of money. It’s about getting rid of a person of vast power in the government who has such questionable ethics. Are there too many more such cases going undetected and/or unpunished? Of course there are. But if I get ticketed for going 20 over the speed limit, it’s no defense to claim “there are lots of other folks doing it too, and you ought to be concentrating on catching murderers and drug dealers.”

  4. NCG says

    I also agree with Mark and Ebbie. It seems to me that a little while ago, someone did a study that found that federal contracting out wastes gazillions of dollars. Kind of puts a crimp in the privatization talk.

    I wonder why no one’s following up on that. This story is bad but I suspect it’s chump change in the scheme of things. Remember what Kinsley says — the scandal is what’s legal.

    • J. Michael Neal says

      I’m not sure why we need to minimize the necessity of getting rid of this guy in order to also argue that privatization leads to a lot of waste.

      • NCG says

        My problem is with press coverage, not with Keith. Naive people are left with the impression that all government is wasteful and so forth. The LAT does this allll the time. The problem is the lack of perspective. No one should write a story like this without comparing it to what other companies or agencies of the same size spend on professional development. As O’Hare says, management is important and it is worth our time and attention. (Though, possibly not this much money.)

  5. Freeman says

    I’m with the crowd on this one. Small potatoes. The math comes out to a penny or two per taxpayer and less than $3000 spent per attendee. I’m all for exposing and cutting useless and senseless wastes of taxpayer funds, and pennies do add up, but this has to be near the bottom of the barrel. I’m more satisfied when a bigger fish is fried.

  6. prognostication says

    Before anybody else piles on contractors, I’d like to jump in and point out that the kinds of excesses that have been mentioned in prior comments are only possible in certain types of contracting operations. Many federal contracting firms, possibly even the majority, work under contracts that have strictly defined limits on profit, and I really do think that the government is getting a bargain under many if not most circumstances.

    I am under no illusions about the various flaws in the contracting system, and the waste at certain firms bothers me as much as it bothers most people, but the indiscriminate bashing of contractors gets a little grating sometimes.

    • NCG says

      I hope you’re right, but I’m not so confident of it. For example, I wonder how well “profits” are defined. I agree though that generalizations aren’t usually very helpful — maybe what we need is a commission to look at it.

    • says

      Limits on profit are beside the point for something like this. Conference attendance (or staging) is an expense, usually an allowable one. The whole trick for gouging the customer (government or otherwise) is to put all the fun things you want to do on the expense budget; the profit number is important only to the shareholders.

      • John G says

        Indeed. That’s why some of the profligacy scandals of recent years have been about not-for-profit organizations. An empire is an empire, and imperial extravagance is … etc, and the bottom line has only to balance in the long run to make it work (and sometimes not even then).