The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


I couldn’t help but smile as I watched the reports of the latest GSA/Las Vegas “scandal” in which the vast sum of $800,000 was frittered away on a bogus conference in the town who motto is: “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Apparently not.

Even worse from a bureaucratic perspective was the faux rap video in which GSA employees suggested that their profligate approach to spending played US taxpayers as suckers.

Congress members on both sides of the aisle expressed predictable outrage. The President asked for a renewed investigation (the event occurred in 2010), the mid-level manager who perpetrated this mess, was given a $9,000 bonus, then pleaded the fifth and is now ”on leave,” the head of the GSA was not fired, even though she buried an earlier investigation into the matter, and those of us who believe that a non-trivial percentage of the federal budget is wasted in one way or another, yawned.

Gosh, federal government waste, fraud, and abuse. Wow, I’m really, really shocked.

The sad reality is that the GSA “scandal” is a scandal only because people think its representative of a much, much bigger problem. In reality, the relative pittance (by federal government standards) spend by a bunch of government employees to party on the taxpayers dime is nothing—absolutely nothing!—when compared to the tens of billions of dollars wasted on entitlement fraud, unnecessary government agencies and departments, military programs that are both unnecessary and unproductive, procurement that is not cost effective, too many government contractors doing too little for way too much, unecessary pork, … the list is very long.

And the same President and his supporters are aghast when Rep. Paul Ryan suggests that some of the budget might be cut. They demogogue any cut, suggesting that even modest cuts will starve grandma or have been made “on the backs of the most vulnerable.” But party in Las Vegas—now there’s something that they can get all worked up about.

In reality, the federal government is inefficient. It does a decent job at a very few things (e.g., weather prediction, air traffic control, the CDC, core military functions, basic infrastructure support) and is enormously wasteful at most other things. It is a bureaucracy that is cancerous, growing out of control with the full support and encouragement of many Democrats and President Obama. Deficits of $1 trillion dollars per year are shrugged off, but $800,000 is a “scandal.”

From a political perspective, Roger Pilon gets to the core issue:
So here’s the political point. Democrats, unlike Republicans (at least nominally), belong to the party of government. For every problem, they see not a private but a government solution. Market competition disciplines private abuses — not perfectly, to be sure, but far better than whatever controls there may be in the public sector. That’s one reason we should turn to government not as a first but as a last resort. You don’t like being abused as a taxpayer? Then don’t vote for the party of government.

The only way to reduce government waste, abuse, and inefficiency is to make government smaller. But that concept is anathema to our President. And that’s the real “scandal.”