I just don’t understand it. I never have.
In a report released today, the Justice Department’s inspector general revealed that U.S. Justice Department agencies spent absurd amounts for lavish food at conferences, in one case serving $16 muffins, in another dishing out beef Wellington appetizers that cost $7.32 per serving, and in yet another, a March 2009 conference of the Office on Violence Against Women, serving Cracker Jacks, popcorn and candy bars at a single break to the tune of $32 per person. Yum!
The abuse isn’t unique to the Obama Administration, but it has gotten worse. The inspector general reviewed a sample of ten Justice Department conferences held between October 2007 and September 2009 at a cost of $4.4 million, a period that included the administrations of Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama. The Justice Department spent $73.3 million on conferences in fiscal 2009, compared with $47.8 million a year earlier, according to the report.
“Some conferences featured costly meals, refreshments, and themed breaks that we believe were indicative of wasteful or extravagant spending,” the report said.
To be concise, how dare they? How can government employees treat taxpayer funds so callously? Why doesn’t anyone in the chain of authority have an ethics alarm go off and announce, “Wait a minute! We have a budget crisis! We can’t pay our bills! It’s insane to spend money for our own comfort and entertainment like this!”
Nobody did, however. Nobody has for a long while. The waste, lack of responsibility and arrogance is equally galling whether it was Republicans or Democrats spending money on treats, but it is certainly more mystifying to read about Beef Wellington appetizers being consumed on the taxpayer’s dime by an administration that is posing as a the foe of the wealthy—you know, the only people who can afford Beef Wellington. Other than government employees, of course.
I just don’t understand it. I don’t understand how people who work for the government can come to ignore their duty to expend public resources responsibly. I don’t understand why it takes an inspector general to point out that this is wrong, and I don’t understand national leadership that needs an independent audit to remind it that such waste is intolerable.
I do understand this: It is indicative of arrogance and lack of responsibility from top to bottom. And this: if you think extravagant White House dinners, events and vacations don’t encourage such waste, you are deluded, or work for MSNBC.
I also understand something else. Such reports bolster the arguments of who believe that the government is not an efficient or responsible steward for public funds, and that it cannot and must not be trusted with large projects and complex policy initiatives without constant oversight and strict limitations.
I wonder if those currently running our nation understand that.
I doubt it.