Why is the White House Spending $277,000 a Year on Calligraphists?

Courtesy Open Data/SocrataCourtesy Open Data/Socrata

Above is a screen capture of a sort in Socrata's Open Data info about various things, including the White House employment database.

brillig.combrillig.comAs pointed out by The Weekly Standard's Daniel Halper, the White House paid more than $277,000 for three calligraphers in 2012. That sort of position and price tag undercuts the idea that President Obama thinks there's a spending problem for sure. According to Wikipedia, the calligraphy crew is "responsible for the design and execution of all social and official documents at the White House." What is it that Candidate Obama used to say about creating "a new ethic of responsibility?":

Part of the reason this crisis occurred is that everyone was living beyond their means—from Wall Street to Washington to even some on Main Street. CEOs got greedy. Politicians spent money they didn't have....

We've lived through an era of easy money, in which we were allowed and even encouraged to spend without limits; to borrow instead of save....

Once we get past the present emergency, which requires immediate new investments, we have to break that cycle of debt.

Now, lord knows that the current crisis is still with us and that stimulatarians ranging from Paul Krugman to members of Congress to the president himself all believe we've got to spend more money to make more money, but I look forward to the day when the country is no longer putting 40 percent of its annual outlays on a credit card (i.e., the backs of kids barely born yet).

courtesy Wikipediacourtesy WikipediaLike all Americans, I want White House invitations and name cards to look as first-class as possible, especially when hosting the Queen of England (her card is pictured nearby) - and lord knows that Obama's 2009 gift to Britain's prime minister was a real POS.

But shelling out a quarter of a million bucks a year on three calligraphers gently reinforces the main point of Mike Riggs' great piece from yesterday about the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC).

That's the agency that was singled out for a 10 percent cut under sequestration - despite its having been shut down in June 2012, or almost a year before sequestration took place. Long recognized as a classic pork-barrel project (NDIC existed in the district of the late earmark king Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania), NDIC offered to trim its budget by a whopping 43 percent before finally getting axed altogether. Writes Riggs:

While the NDIC's offer to cut its $44 million budget by 43 percent failed to placate critics of waste and pork, the fact that the agency was able to come up with $19 million in savings is pretty instructive for the debate over sequestration. Even more instructive? When it came time for the DEA to absorb that part of the National Drug Intelligence Center most essential to collecting drug intelligence, it picked up just under 60 employees [out of 240 total workers].

Read Riggs here.

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  • sarcasmic||

    The question is not so much why that much is being spent on calligraphers, but why tours are cancelled while calligraphers keep their jobs.

    Back in my teaching days, many years ago, one of the things I liked to ask the class to consider was this: Imagine a government agency with only two tasks: (1) building statues of Benedict Arnold and (2) providing life-saving medications to children. If this agency's budget were cut, what would it do?

    The answer, of course, is that it would cut back on the medications for children. Why? Because that would be what was most likely to get the budget cuts restored. If they cut back on building statues of Benedict Arnold, people might ask why they were building statues of Benedict Arnold in the first place.


    http://townhall.com/columnists.....ampaign=nl

  • ant1sthenes||

    Wouldn't the poor college lefties in the class think Benedict Arnold was the shit? He was an enemy of the evil America and the slave owning white men who founded it. Better to say statues of Hitler, maybe, or George W. Bush.

  • Sevo||

    We can't cut a single cent more without people dying in the streets from starvation!
    Can't you libertarians understand common decency?

  • plusafdotcom||

    We'll start demonstrating "common decency" when progressives start demonstrating the slightest knowledge of economics, free markets or unintended consequences, thanks!
    :)

  • Jerry on the boat||

    Yeah, why don't they just use Comic Sans.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    but I look forward to the day when the country is putting 40 percent of its annual outlays on a credit card (i.e., the backs of kids barely born yet).

    Missing a "not" aren't you? (I hope)

  • Sevo||

    "Like all Americans, I want White House invitations and name cards to look as first-class as possible,"
    Nope.
    Office Max can print 'em up cheap and quick. Let the government officials brag about how they're not wasting money on such crap.

  • sarcasmic||

    Printers are for peasants. Royalty requires hand written invitations.

  • Bam!||

    Calligraphists are the trains of the written world.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Protip:

    There are thousands of fonts out there, just waiting to be downloaded.

    Tell your Court Calligrapher to get a real job.

  • gaijin||

    I would also think there are hundreds of hobbyists who take calligraphy seriously and would be willing to donate their effort for free...as patriots!

  • Doctor Whom||

    And how hard would it be to find them? The DC area has both a calligraphers' club and a well attended annual pen show.

  • LauraB||

    I would certainly think you could get one for less than $94,000 a year.

  • Geoff Nathan||

    My sister-in-law is a professional calligrapher, and she doesn't make anywhere near that.

  • ||

    Psh, she's obviously not up to government standards. This is why we need government calligraphy certification. If we don't, the terrorists will win!

  • plusafdotcom||

    Forward this whole thread to...

    ah, crap, it wouldn't make a difference... they can't do math OR read, either.

    :)

  • db||

    Seriously. There have to be plenty of talented hobbyists out there just quivering at the idea of being The President's Own Calligrapher. The title would be compensation enough.

  • ||

    I wonder if there's a calligrapher's union that would complain.

  • Zeb||

    Or at least hire out the job instead of keeping 3 on staff. Or if the president want's hand caligraphed invitations so badly, he can pay for them himself.

  • Ted S.||

    "want's"?

    What kind of a monster are you?

  • plusafdotcom||

    and probably a bad calligrapher, too...
    :)

    worse, Zeb was suggesting "outsourcing" or maybe "offshoring"!

    Any good, cheap calligraphers in China, India... :)

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Royalty requires hand written invitations.

    If you really cared, you'd send a singing telegram, ya bum.

  • Agammamon||

    I
    Am
    Your singing telegram!

  • ||

    *bang*

  • Virginian||

    Some people just have no fiscal sense. I have a friend like this. She had to get a different job, one that pays much less. So instead of living comfortably and saving, she's now paycheck to paycheck, because she refuses to change her lifestyle. And when I try to help her with a budget, the same refrain "I'm not giving that up, it wouldn't help." for every single item.

    Her house is close to the river, so the rent is higher, plus it's way too big for just her. Deluxe cable package. Three or four meals out a week, AC cranked in the summer, heat super high in the winter. But there is nothing to cut. She just needs a raise. It's not fair.

    She is of course, a staunch Democrat.

  • phandaal||

    You can't fix that kind of thing, unfortunately. They have to experience the consequences of their actions, and even then they may not learn.

    As you say, they aren't in trouble because of their choices, they're in trouble because the mean ol' universe is keeping them down.

  • Virginian||

    I really just don't understand the mindset. Like I just had a huge unexpected car repair. Which means no more eating out until I build my reserves back up. It means I'm going to skip my range trip next week, and maybe the week after. It means I'm going to be eating egg salad and hamburger instead of deli meats and steak.

    And honestly, this girl is either ordering delivery or eating out 20 times a month. Even cutting that in half would probably save her hundreds of dollars. Moving to a smaller place would probably save her 500 bucks a month right there.

    I just am genuinely puzzled by people who think that budgeting is some kind of gross hardship or perversity.

  • Rich||

    I think their "thinking" is something like "I live in the wealthiest country on Earth. Therefore, ...."

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    "But I waaaaaaannntt it." The beauty is those who are responsible get to bail out those who aren't.

    We'll see if it holds once they're out in the wild, but even my kids understand that you can have more of what you want, rather than less, by 1) not paying interest and 2) prioritizing.

    The 11 year old uses budgeting software and is currently working out how and when she can afford an iPhone.

  • ||

    I just am genuinely puzzled by people who think that budgeting is tradeoffs are some kind of gross hardship or perversity.

  • sarcasmic||

    And honestly, this girl is either ordering delivery or eating out 20 times a month.

    Maybe someone should teach her how to cook a meal.

  • Sudden||

    INTRINSICALLY PATERNALISTIC!1!!!1!!!!1!!

    /Matt Damon

  • plusafdotcom||

    Leave her with a copy of this the next time you chat about stuff like that...

    http://www.plusaf.com/linkedin.....rstand.bmp

  • Cdr Lytton||

    Like all Americans, I want White House invitations and name cards to look as first-class as possible, especially when hosting the Queen of England

    Speak for yourself Nick. I could give a shit if they were printed on a laser printer or even made at all.

    Especially for the Queen.

  • Brett L||

    You know what's cool? Laser cut invitations. I have a bunch of business cards for the Makerspace a friend did on his laser cutter. Its pretty damned badass to have your name actually cut out of the card in a nice font.

  • sloopyinca||

    Pfffft. You're never gonna get a Queen to your house like that.

    Wait, that sounds wrong.

  • Brett L||

    Dr. Brian May might think it was cool.

  • John||

    First they came for the calligraphers....

  • sloopyinca||

    The calligrapher-bashing is nice, but I honestly think they're the wrong target. Pointing out that the DoD has 700,000+ civilian employees and that their average salary is inching toward $100,000 per year probably ought to be the rallying cry.

    The calligraphers, while outdated, actually serve a function that Obamabots can defend: making official invitations for the world's dignitaries. Find a DoD porter or a servant. Find a DoD job description that should be done by an E-4 but is instead being done by a GS-14 at five times the expense. There are plenty of them than can be cut as well as the calligraphers. But while the calligraphers make a cool $280k combined, the DoD is literally bankrupting our nation.

  • Virginian||

    If we can't cut the frivolous unnecessary stuff with no constitutional function, then I say feed the war pigs. We're going to need them when the time comes to go conquistador to stave off the collapse.

  • sloopyinca||

    the frivolous unnecessary stuff with no constitutional function,

    Exactly. That's why I brought up the 700,000+ civilian DoD employees.

  • Virginian||

    Damn it sloop, the true strength of the US military is not our fleet of carriers, it's not our highly trained and mobile army, not our global strike capability or our nuclear arsenal. No, if the paper pushing putzes of the Puzzle Palace were to be furloughed even a day, the terrorists would win.

    Why do you want the terrorists to win?

  • Agammamon||

    "The calligraphers, while outdated, actually serve a function that Obamabots can defend: making official invitations for the world's dignitaries."

    1 - no they can't defend this - a decent printing service can create invitations indistinguishable from hand written. Hell the US gov has a GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE.

    2. You've got to start somewhere and the DOD has a lot of people willing to fight for that GS's job. Start small and keep picking at the edges. Little by little you'll be able to target larger game.

  • plusafdotcom||

    Sloopy... may I suggest a different "target" to start with (pun intended...): the Department of Energy.

    As I understand it, the DOE has NEVER come close to reaching the goals defined in their charter and should get an F- or even a Zero grade for achievement.

    How about sequestering them first, THEN (MAYBE) the folks whose job it is to actually defend our country?

    Just suggesting...
    :)

  • AlmightyJB||

    I can barely read my own handwriting much less do calligraphy.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Pointing out that the DoD has 700,000+ civilian employees and that their average salary is inching toward $100,000 per year probably ought to be the rallying cry.

    Putting everybody currently employed by the TSA to work picking up beer cans along the roads would be a net gain for the economy, but you won't hear any responsible adults talking about that, either.

  • sloopyinca||

    Having seen the bums doing it firsthand, I can say that TSA workers could never be as efficient, what with the workplace rules and mandated breaks they are afforded.

    Besides, the bums started on the roadsides and moved to rifling through our trash cans. Do you really want the TSA going through your trash cans ostensibly for the purpose of collecting aluminum cans? I sure don't.

  • sloopyinca||

    Although your post made me think of this, and for that I thank you.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    If we can't cut the frivolous unnecessary stuff

    No shit. When people say, "But that's NOTHING!" I ask them, "Well, if we can't get this 'petty cash' spending under control, how in the fuck will we ever get anyn category of spending under control?"

  • wareagle||

    and that's the point. Treating everything as serious means nothing is really taken seriously. And when given the choice of cutting the serious or the frivolous, DC always targets the serious because it will be the easier to restore funding to. Cutting the frivolous means someone may ask why it's being funded to begin with and we can't have that.

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    If everything is a priority then nothing is a priority.

    Why the iron laws don't have more cachet outside of Reason I don't know?

  • The Late P Brooks||

    hobbyists who take calligraphy seriously and would be willing to donate their effort for free...as patriots!

    Union busting is never patriotic.

  • Number 2||

    In other news, the U.S. Department of Labor just spent taxpayer money to create an animated webpage "celebrating" the Department's 100th anniversary.

    Obviously, the sequester had no effect on that necessary expenditure of public money!

  • Doctor Whom||

    Do you know what country in the Horn of Africa probably doesn't have an animated web page celebrating each cabinet department's anniversary?

  • sloopyinca||

    I'm not sure which I hate more: the Department of Labor or the Department of Education. I guess it's like deciding if you hate colon cancer as much as pancreatic cancer.

  • H. ReardEn||

    Someone call Micheal Mann. That graph looks like a hockey stick. We've reached a tipping point from which there is no return.

  • Fluffy||

    The calligraphers are emblematic of the larger issue of the outrageous spending undertaken for the imperial trappings of the Presidency.

    Spending on White House events, maintenance and support, and security should immediately be cut at least 75%.

    If you're so afraid of assassination that you won't take the job unless you can travel with a 1000 man entourage army, don't run for the office.

  • Jan S.||

    Pppththththth. Obama doesn't need *any* Secret Service following him around.

    Joe Biden = Assassination Insurance

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Why is the White House Spending $277,000 a Year on Calligraphists?

    Because if the White House didn't spend $277k per annum on calligraphers, we'd be just like Somalia.

  • sloopyinca||

    If ever there were a story when the editors would let us relive "The Day Of The Commenters" this would be it.

    If the White House can have three calligraphers on staff, we can have blink text for a goddamn afternoon!

  • plusafdotcom||

    Brillig.com.... log vertical scale, please? thanks!

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