Q: Who the Hell Would Pay $22,000 For an Oil Portrait of Tom Vilsack? A: You Already Did!

Over at the Washington Times, Jim McElhatton has written a story about the exorbitant prices the federal government pays to memorialize cabinet members and other bureaucrats who do the people's work by commissioning paintings of themselves.

The Environmental Protection Agency spent nearly $40,000 on a portrait of Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, while a painting of Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley will cost $41,200, according to federal purchasing records. The price tag for a 3-by-4-foot oil portrait of Agriculture Department Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack: $22,500.

All told, the government has paid out at least $180,000 for official portraits since last year.

Read the whole thing here.

You got that: $22,500 for a portrait of Tom Vilsack! Somewhere on this post is a picture of Vilsack and a rendering of the same photo done using a free online image editor to "portraitize" said picture into an "oil painting." Total cost to taxpayers: $0.00. And even at that price, we overpaid a bit, I think.

Cafe Press, the online retailer of cheap, personalized t-shirts, coffee mugs, and so much more, has written an open letter to the government with a plan for reducing official portrait costs by as much as 99 percent. Read it here. And if you want to buy a Vilsack-emblazoned work jersey - designed par moi! - go here.

For a government that spends nearly $4 trillion a year, of course, even spending $30,000 on paintings of former Bush admin USDA administrators is chump change. But these sorts of ludicrously overpriced - and unnecessary - bagatelles are of a piece with a government that has increased by nearly 50 percent real, per-capita outlays over the past decade with no sign of slowing up.

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  • The Late P Brooks||

    Needz moar revenoos!

  • ||

    Q: Who the Hell Would Pay $22,000 For an Oil Portrait of Tom Vilsack? A: You Already Did!

    No, I didn't pay for that oil portrait, nor did anyone else here. The criminal gang that runs the federal government paid for that portrait. using money that they stole from us.

    WE are not the government, any more than WE are the mafia. THEY are the government.

  • sarcasmic||

    WTF? Progressives say that voting makes you part of government!

    You mean if the mafia comes to your shop where you pay them for "protection", and they give you a list of guidos to choose from to be their leader, that you don't become a made-man?

    I'm confused.

  • T o n y||

    Therefore let's get rid of government and be ruled only by mafias!

  • sarcasmic||

    Straw man moves the goalposts for the win!

  • ||

    False choices, how the fuck do they work?

  • T o n y||

    So there's some form of government--which by definition maintains a monopoly on the legitimate use of force--that protefeed would consider legitimate and the proper steward of his tax money? What would legitimize it? Lemme guess, it's only legitimate when it does exactly what he wants it to do and nothing else.

  • T||

    If it sticks to the bounds of the document setting forth its explicit limitations, it has a hell of a lot better chance of being legitimate.

  • sarcasmic||

    which by definition maintains a monopoly on the legitimate use of force

    So all government force is legitimate since government has the monopoly on legitimate force.

    Tautology Man for the win!

  • T o n y||

    You need to stop using Logic 101 vocab words you don't understand. It's unseemly for casual blog debates anyway.

    All it means is that nobody has the right to use force without sanction from government. Government can certainly use force illegally.

  • sarcasmic||

    All it means is that nobody has the right to use force without sanction from government.

    Uh, no? Every human being has a right to use force to defend themselves. Governments may not always recognize that right, but that doesn't negate it.

    Government can certainly use force illegally.

    So as long as it is legal, it is legitimate? If government decides it's legal for its employees to commit rape, does that make rape by government employees legitimate?

    Oh wait a sec. You moved the goalposts again from legitimate to legal.

    Good show, fallacy boy!

  • T o n y||

    Every human being has a right to use force to defend themselves. Governments may not always recognize that right, but that doesn't negate it.

    If a government doesn't recognize that right, and throws you in jail for your committing that force, then you don't have that right, do you? Self-defense is usually recognized as one of the instances where permission is given to use force. But if you blow someone's head off you have to prove it was self defense. You don't get to point to the angels on your shoulders and say they endowed you with a right from heaven.

    So as long as it is legal, it is legitimate?

    You tell me what your standard of legitimacy is.

  • sarcasmic||

    If a government doesn't recognize that right, and throws you in jail for your committing that force, then you don't have that right, do you?

    By that logic slavery and Jim Crow was legitimate at the time because it was legal.

    You tell me what your standard of legitimacy is.

    Again, by your standard slavery was perfectly legitimate, and slaves didn't have the right to self ownership until the government said so. It wasn't the case that their right to self ownership was not recognized and thus violated, it simply did not exist until *poof* Congress created it into being!

    Why do you support slavery and institutionalized racism?

  • T o n y||

    You didn't answer the question.

    That's OK, because you can't. Not without invoking magic.

  • sarcasmic||

    You didn't answer the question.

    I'm following your own logic, Tony. If all legal government force is legitimate (question begging tautology), then what's wrong with slavery or institutionalized rape as long as it is legal?

    The answer, by your logic, is NOTHING.

    That means you approve of all those things as long as they are legal, because legality is the sole source of legitimacy and rights.

    So I ask again, why do you approve of slavery?

  • ||

    If a government doesn't recognize that right, and throws you in jail for your committing that force, then you don't have that right, do you?

    If a criminal gang locks you in a cage, you don't lose your rights. You lose your freedom. Rights are what you have by virtue of being a human being.

  • T o n y||

    The only thing that defines me as a human is a certain DNA sequence.

    Rights were invented quite recently in the history of the existence of homo sapiens. They are conceptual. They signify certain real entitlements that only exist by virtue of enforcement.

  • sarcasmic||

    They signify certain real entitlements that only exist by virtue of enforcement.

    You are alive only because of government enforcing your right to live, and without government you would die? Everyone would die? Because the only reason a right to live exists is because it is enforce by government? Without government the entire human race would cease to live since government would no longer be enforcing it?

  • Belgian||

    What tony means, of course, is "Stop saying things I don't understand!! You're othering me!!!!"

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Ah, Belgian speaks T o n y. We shan't have to run things through Google Translate anymore!

  • ||

    So there's some form of government--which by definition maintains a monopoly on the legitimate use of force--that protefeed would consider legitimate and the proper steward of his tax money?

    1) I consider all governments to be criminal gangs.

    2) I consider "legitimate criminal gang" to be an oxymoron

    3) Asking me which criminal gang might be "the proper steward" of "tax money" that was stolen from me is a nonsensical statement.

    Which part of "anarchist" do you not get?

  • T o n y||

    The part where grownups call themselves that.

  • Ted S.||

    Not very well.

  • John Thacker||

    So you're proud to have banned gay marriage (since government == us), and anyone arguing that it should be legalized is arguing for chaos, societal breakdown, and rule by mafias, Tony?

    You have so much in common with the extremist social conservatives.

  • T o n y||

    The claim was that government was being run by "a criminal gang" that "stole" money from us rather than taxed us legitimately. And that it is "other" than us, a foreign occupying force, not a democratically instituted government.

    Is all that because it does something protefeed doesn't like? One can believe in the utility of government without agreeing with everything every government does, you know. Democracy means I don't always get my way, but it's better than any alternative, because it's not likely my way that will inform a tyranny.

  • Certified Public Asskicker||

    We're spending federal dollars to fucking paint pictures. Your response is to giggle about it and say "oh that wacky democracy."

  • Randian||

    Ha! This is a great post.

  • T o n y||

    And that deserves roughly 1/43,000,000th the outrage that spending on the Iraq war does, if not a bit less since an argument can be made that the portraits have a purpose.

  • Randian||

    The Iraq war was birthed through DEMOCRACY. Why do you hate DEMOCRACY, tony?

  • Certified Public Asskicker||

    an argument can be made that the portraits have a purpose

    Do tell.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Glorifying Top. Men. And Top. Womyn.

  • KDN||

    Government is quite clearly a separate entity than the people it ostensibly exists to serve. You're free to give it credit for all good things in the world if you like, but don't insult people's intelligence and claim such nonsense like "government is the one thing to which we all belong." It's not. It may be of the people, by the people, and for the people, but it is not, and will never be, the people. And when the interests of the people and the government diverge, you can be sure that the government will pursue its own best interests.

  • T o n y||

    Government is no less made up of individual people than society is. It's not a monster under your bed.

  • Belgian||

    Jesus Christ, Tony, stop. Just stop. You're defending spending 180,000 dollars of other peoples' money for these people to make themselves feel like old fashioned monarchs. Do you even understand what it is you're arguing for anymore, you fucking parody?

  • H. Reardon||

    GovernmentA corporation is no less made up of individual people than society is. It's not a monster under your bed.

    Somehow I believe that you'd disagree.

  • Randian||

    Even as an agency, the government is a formal organization with an authorized personnel, of which the private citizen is not a member. When several persons employ an umpire, they are distinctively not the umpire, although he holds that office by their agreement.

    - Isabel Paterson -

  • ||

    Is all that because it does something protefeed doesn't like? One can believe in the utility of government without agreeing with everything every government does, you know.

    No, it's because it does things without my consent.

    A store can do things I don't like -- stock their shelves with goods I don't want to buy, charge prices I don't want to pay -- and I could care less. Because they can't make me shop there.

    I like shopping at CostCo. But, if someone told me that I, and everyone else, had to shop only there, and then outlawed all their competitors, it seems wildly improbable that they would continue to offer goods and services I wanted at prices I wanted to pay.

    "One" can believe in the utility of government only if "one" doesn't get why what they do sucks compared to markets with competition.

  • sarcasmic||

    CostCo and government are different in that CostCo doesn't market violence.
    Government does.
    If you have more than one agency competing in the marketing of violence, well they're going to try to literally kill off the competition.
    It's called war.
    Anarchy is an impossibility because once there is no single organization with a monopoly on the initiation of violence, you'll have new ones competing with each other, and the winner becomes government.

    Death and taxes. Can't avoid them.

  • Brutus||

    Tony's list of mortal sins dwarfs that of the most stiff-spined SoCon.

  • John C. Randolph||

    ...and the difference between them is what, exactly?

    Oh, I remember: governments kill millions of people, mafias kill dozens. Sounds like a net gain to me.

    -jcr

  • some guy||

    Because fuck you. That's why.

  • ||

    What photo editor did you use? Once upon a time I turned a pic of myself in a Modigliani-inspired portrait using some web site, but I forgot what it was.

  • Brutus||

    We are led by madmen.

    That is all.

  • sarcasmic||

    We are led ruled by madmen.

    ftfy

  • Brutus||

    I stand corrected. Much appreciated.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    We are led by madmen.

    FORWARD, LEMMINGS!

  • The Late P Brooks||

    let's get rid of government and be ruled only by mafias!

    A distinction without a difference.

  • T o n y||

    Except for legitimacy, elections, checks and balances, civil rights...

  • Brutus||

    Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos!

  • tarran||

    Here goes TOny defending Jim Crow again...

    Your racism sickens me, Tony.

  • Randian||

    Ask him what he thinks of the South next. It gets worse.

  • Tak Kak||

    On the other hand: drugs and prostitutes.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IErlI34-0so

    Easy choice.

  • ||

    "I'll take one art, please!"

  • Brutus||

    "Here's your authentic Vilsac, Mr. Warty. That'll be $22,000."

  • rts||

    What a clever impersonation of a stupid poor person!

  • BoscoH||

    Think of it as $30K of savings versus spending that on the ethanol subsidy. Also, a cornier painting would have cost more than oil. I'll be here all week.

  • ||

    Pfft, figures that one of the EPA nomenklatura is so high on that list. I wonder what the carbon cost of that portrait was.

    But government services are already cut to the bone, I tell you! To the bone!

  • flye||

    It would almost be worth it to see this come up on Antiques Roadshow in five years.

    "What you have here is a commissioned portrait of an obscure bureaucrat named Tom Vilsack, painted sometime in the early 2010s. May I ask what you paid for it? Really? That's American dollars? Well I'm sorry to tell you that at auction today this would list for about $500, depending on whether you can find the right ironic buyer."

  • Randian||

    But we've cut to the bone! Only new revenues can save us now!

  • SIV||

    Leave it to reason to go for the capillary rather than the jugular. Don't you realize the cost of pre-memorializing these selfless public servants is less than a rounding error?

  • Randian||

    22,000 here, 40,000 there, soon you're talking about real money.

    I mean hell, a million dollars is a rounding error, so I guess wasting a million dollars is just okey-dokey.

  • SIV||

    Whooooosh!

  • Randian||

    Damn you.

  • SIV||

    Ira Stoll made the "capillary rather than the jugular" remark about NEH funding. The late Tim Cavanaugh the one about PBS funding being "little more than rounding error".

    Apparently Romney wanted to eliminate both and there was an election coming up...

  • Randian||

    Just go ahead and invoke the Cocktail Party Fallacy and it get it out of the way.

  • SIV||

    Virtual cocktail parties...on "Journolist II"

  • tarran||

    Dude, it's not the amount of the money that matters. It's inculcating the masses with contempt for the rulers which is important.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    Two words:
    Big. Bird.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    "I'll take one art, please!"

    I just had one of these conversations the other night; we were talking about a "commissioned" work a well-known painter had done for somebody.

    I said, "I have a wall X feet x X feet; I need an art to fit on it."

    It went right over the heads of the other people at dinner.

  • Carston||

    So is there anyone out there who still believes it is a revenue problem, and not a spending problem?

  • Belgian||

    It kinda seems like Tony does, but he's too busy moving goal posts and obfuscating with non sequiturs to actually state a position on this.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Obama. T o n y, and Joe.

  • T o n y||

    Uh, these portraits don't definitively answer that question, since they are smaller than drops in the bucket.

    The largest single policy contributor to the budget deficit is the Bush tax cuts. That remains a fact.

    You want to solve the deficit only by cutting programs? Fine, that's your prerogative as a government minimalist. But how do you pay down the debt?

  • John C. Randolph||

    You pay down the debt by selling off land and other assets that never should have been under federal government control in the first place.

    -jcr

  • John C. Randolph||

    Yes, Tony and the rest of his short-bus crew.

    -jcr

  • Ken Shultz||

    "You got that: $22,500 for a portrait of Tom Vilsack! Somewhere on this post is a picture of Vilsack and a rendering of the same photo done using a free online image editor to "portraitize" said picture into an "oil painting." Total cost to taxpayers: $0.00."

    See, that's the whole problem with doing it for free, right there...

    Gotta do something to stop that marginal propensity to save!

  • sarcasmic||

    Multiplier, man! Multiplier!

    That $22,500 generates momentum and stimulates the economy more than if it were left in the hands of the taxpayers!

    Ideally taxes would be 100%, and we would live in total prosperity as the magical multiplier created wealth from nothing!

  • Ken Shultz||

    See, sarcasmic understands this stuff!

    What's the matter with the rest of you stupid rednecks?

    Why pay $22,500 for something when you could pay nothing?! Because saving money destroys the economy, that's why.

  • Nick M||

    If the government can just commission enough portraits our economic troubles will be over. Stimulus!!!!

  • Belgian||

    No, we need to think bigger. Giant bronze statues commemorating our fearless leaders! An entire park dedicated to them! I wonder why no one has thought of this before?

  • Drave Robber||

    Ever seen Grūto parkas? ;)

  • Drave Robber||

    (this was intended @Belgian 12:24PM)

  • Belgian||

    Nope. I was being sarcastic, and my sarcasm was based on the assumption that the Statue Park level on Goldeneye was based on a real place in Russia.

  • Swamp Think||

    Imagine a future USA where every square inch is covered with these portraits, presidential libraries and war memorials. This is the path we are on.

  • miniha||

    hmmm... wish you wouldnt diss artists...

  • Robert Jordan||

    I've neither painted nor posed, so forgive my ignorance, but if getting a portrait painted requires sitting still doing nothing for a period of an hour or more, then these portraits may have been a net bargain for the taxpayer.

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