Government Spending

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Retired Glenwood Springs car dealer John Haines' hope of donating a giant chunk of snow -white marble to the federal government to replace the cracked Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery is stalled again.

Haines' hoped-for donation, which has sat outside the Yule Quarry near Marble since it was cut for the tomb in 2003, didn't even rate a mention in a 34-page Department of the Army report to Congress this week on replacement and repair options for the deteriorating tomb.

Haines' donation creates problems for the federal government because it is free and has not gone through a pricey bidding and specification process.


This week's report — the latest in a string of tomb reports done since Arlington officials decided the marble needed replacing 18 years ago — estimates the cost of replacing the tomb's marble at $2.2 million — $80,000 of that for seeking bids, $90,000 for buying and transporting the marble and the remainder for sculpting.

Haines made the final payment for his $31,000 piece of marble last week. He also has lined up donated transport for the rock on a flag-decorated flatbed truck. He did all that after receiving a letter from an Army major general five years ago thanking him for his "most kind and generous donation." 

Better that the government spend $170,000 merely to solicit a bid, then another $2.2 million on the actual marble, because who knows what kind of bargain marble Haines is donating?


…Haines' marble isn't just any marble. It was cut from the same Yule Quarry where the original gold-veined marble for the Tomb of the Unknowns was mined nearly 80 years ago. The marble on the outside of the Lincoln Memorial also came from that quarry. The tomb replacement piece was cut after a nearly five-year search for an unflawed piece that would look like the original. 

The only problem with Haines' marble really does seem to be the fact that he wants to donate it.

"It's not doable. A citizen can't just give us any piece of marble and say, 'This is what we'll use to replace the tomb,' " said Thurman Higginbotham, deputy superintendent of Arlington. 


Meanwhile, the free, room-sized block of marble gracing a hillside near Marble draws some curious tourists who snap pictures in front of it. Haines said if it can't be used for the tomb, he has the option to sell it back to the quarry, where it would be cut up and sold for other projects.

"I understand how the government works," Haines said. "But there comes a point when you just say 'to hell with it.' " 

Haines should use the marble to construct a monument to government waste.

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  1. Thurman Higginbotham

    Wow. Why didn’t he take Gilligan off the island with him when he left?

  2. Sell the marble to the government and use the proceeds to set up a fund that bankrolls the funeral/travel expenses of today’s fallen soldiers and their families. Problem solved.

  3. Yes I realize that doesn’t really solve the problem, but its the next best thing.

  4. Just wait for the reaction when some doctor, under National Health Care, wants to go into some poor community and give free polio shots or something.

  5. Will the official workaround be to do the bidding process and ask him to fill out the paperwork, submitting a bid of $0?

  6. “It’s not doable. A citizen can’t just give us any piece of marble and say, ‘This is what we’ll use to replace the tomb,’ ” said Thurman Higginbotham, deputy superintendent of Arlington.

    And just why the hell not? Someone, somewhere, IS the decision maker.

  7. Maybe he could find someone to carve a copy of the sculpture which sits inside Information Services in Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil”.

  8. Could someone who knows this asshole (Thurman Higginbotham) please kick him in the nuts for my uncle whose remains never returned from war.

  9. No, a citizen cannot give the government just any piece of marble and say “This is what we’ll use”. But a citizen can certainly donate a piece of marble and say “Can you use this for the tomb?”. Then, someone could inspect the marble, and if it is of sufficient quality, use the fucking thing. Jesus Christ, why is there such a mental disconnect in government workers?

    I think this is why conspiracy theories seems so plausible to so many people. The explanation that the government really is just this bumbling and stupid seems less plausible than the explanation that there’s something going on we don’t know about.

  10. Why is everyone so shocked? Remember, this is OUR government that brings us such stuff as congresspeople, presidents and the endless bureaucracy that, for a tiny example, calls seven year old kids terrorists.

    If I were him, I would simply ship it down to the site, dump it off and tell them to deal with it. He would probably be arrested for littering but, alas, would make the point.

  11. They fought and died for our freedom, but all we ended up with was free dumb.

  12. I see the reader advice about moving the Brickbats to Hit & Run is finally being followed.

  13. The average bureaucrat is capable of phenomenal stpidity.

  14. Just donate it to the Smithsonian, at least I know you can donate things there. Then let the Smithsonian loan it to Arlington.

    But I suspect that each person involved on the government side has to justify his position and pay grade.

  15. We are a nation of idiots. Yes, WE are the ones who keep re-electing the same out-of-touch morons to DC. Congressional approval is at an all-time low, yet 95% of them will not face a serious challenge for re-election. This is so typical of the federal government, complete lack of common sense.

  16. Nobody has figured out that they could buy it from him for a dollar or something like that?

  17. I bet that if he had saved the money and wanted to give that to the government they would break their necks fighting over who would get it. Taxpayers never win.

  18. Gee, it’s a good thing our country and gov’t couldn’t POSSIBLY need or use those $2.2 million for anything else so they can throw it away on marble when they already have a free piece!

    I’m glad that’s where my tax money is going, and not on healthcare or fixing up poor neighborhoods or even body armor for the troops.

  19. i agree that this is ridiculous, but please get the numbers right:

    “Better that the government spend $170,000 merely to solicit a bid, then another $2.2 million on the actual marble, because who knows what kind of bargain marble Haines is donating?”

    no, that’s $80,000 for soliciting bids and $90,000 for the actual marble. somehow that was combined into $170,000 merely to solicit bids. the 2.2 million is the TOTAL cost, including the $170,000 and however much else it costs to sculpt the stone. it is NOT 2.2 million on top of $170,000.

  20. HiFiGuy,

    Soldiers provide freedom
    Politicians provide free dumb

  21. If its a competitive bidding process, then he should submit a bid of $1. If the government questions his bid, he can then show/prove that the marble he has is indeed the best fit for the project, along with the best price.

    As people said, someone, somewhere has to make the decision.

  22. “I bet that if he had saved the money and wanted to give that to the government they would break their necks fighting over who would get it. Taxpayers never win.”

    I’ll bet that if Mr Haines had that last payment of $31,000 in cash, on his person and was somehow detained by law enforcement for any reason, that money would be confiscated.

  23. This makes me wonder just how 0bama or McCain think either one of them is going to “*change*”
    a government that has taken almost 300 years to perfect corruption accross the board. Both friggin parties are guilty of corruption on such a grande’ scale, it will take another 300 years just to get the “good-ole-boys” off their fat corrupt asses and out of Washington. Tell me that’s gonna happen overnight with either of the two political clowns up for fall-guy this year. McCain already fell into the lobbyists pocket 20 years ago and his VP running mate voted for the “bridge to nowhere” and kept the lobbists money for “government improvements,” to the tune of million$ of dollar$. 0bama is next. His campaign has already taken over $80k from the big oil companies. After telling his “peeps” he was ~squeeky-clean~. People are just fooling themselves, or in denial if you prefer, if they really think someone can make Washington accountable. Since 1776, It’s the second largest scam on the North American Continent behind Canada.

  24. Okay, why not let them pay $2.2million + if thats what they want to do. then, turn around and dock their paychecks across the board for the amount they wasted being idiotic. You are the tax payer, and its your money.

  25. Government contracts cannot be bid on by someone off of the street, there is a whole process to become an approved contractor which i promise you isnt worth the time, effort and money to this guy. That marble will never end up at the tomb.

  26. What a shameful waste. How sad.

  27. But I suspect that each person involved on the government side has to justify his position and pay grade.

    Maybe he could just have it delivered to the gates of the cemetery, unload it right there, and hand the first person he sees a bill of sale transferring ownership to the government. Make sure there’s some media present, so the government can’t pretend later it never happened.

  28. He should come up with a transaction that would cause the asset to be seized by IRS or other government officials.

  29. Wow, this guy is amazing! What a wonderful citizen….sad to see his gesture put down by the idiots we all voted into office…..hmmm…maybe Mr. Haines should run for office. I would vote for someone with his kind of thinking!

  30. Contact your congress critters, senators, current presidential candidates, Colorado Senators etc. (I already have!) Turn up the heat! Let them know that this should be fixed like NOW, they have the power to make it happen, and its an election year.

    Ridiculous and disgusting.

  31. What Dirk at 1:11 said.

    I work for a defense contractor – the stupidity of (some / many of) the rules forced on Government procurement agents / officers by the Congress is amazing. Then again, the dogmatic application of them can be equally stupid as well.

  32. I once worked for a company who put in the iron railing on the White House. They did so with a $1.00 bid. It was for bragging rights and to say to our customers “Look what we did”.

    Other companies may be willing to place a $0 or $1 bid on this and to be fair those companies should have a chance correct? There is a certain amount of prestige that will go with the honor of repairing the memorial.

    So this guy’s not going to be placing the stone himself is he? Find a reputable company capable of the repair work and have them put in a $0 bid in return for supplying the materials.

  33. Forest Gump once said “Stupid is what stupid does” We need change in Washington NOW!!!
    NOT ths same old thing. NOT Obama either!!!!!

  34. They ask our soldiers to GIVE their lives, yet they won’t allow someone to GIVE something to the fallen soldiers who GAVE their lives.


  35. the 2.2 million is the TOTAL cost, including the $170,000 and however much else it costs to sculpt the stone. it is NOT 2.2 million on top of $170,000.

    Oh that’s a relief. I was gettin’ kinda worried about all the waste when I thought it was $2.37 million, but now that I see it’s only $2.2 million I just don’t know what all the fuss is about.

  36. You must remember that government projects are all about how to reward the friends of politicians, and should something get built for the public too, well, all is good.

  37. “Sarah, could you handle this, please.”

  38. While this looks stupid it is actually not about government waste. Many people, myself included, feel that the flaw in the original is not significant while the fact of its being the original block is. We think that the minor effort of repairing it, what historic preservation specialists do all day long, would be better use of the government (that is our) money than throwing out this sacred and historic monument so that we can have a new one. After all, the Parthenon is cracked, would you replace it? There is no good reason not to respect the history of this, one of your most significant monuments, even though it is less than 100 years old. It is still historic and not something to be switched out at will. This is not to say that the donor isn’t being generous, only many people don’t agree with his solution.


  39. Why can’t Congress just pass a resolution regarding this?

    And then they need to pass the Bureaucratic Bypass Act, to the effect that whenever there is a cheaper, more reasonable alternative to following the usual rules, you use a certain shortcut designed to prevent corrupt bypass of rules. Say, an alphabetical list of congresscritters and another of senators. A citizen can propose that X needs to be resolved via his/her proposed Bureaucratic Bypass. Congress spits out the names of the next two congresscritters on the list and the next senator on the list, and if all three of them agree that the proposed Bypass makes sense, they sign a Joint Authorization for Bureaucratic Bypass and just do what makes sense.

    Or some other such. Some way that prevents people from jockeying to be on certain bypass proposals.

    There’s got to be a way to do it.

  40. Haines should submit a bid of $62,000 to the government.

    It will be lower the expected $90,000 of purchasing and transporting the marble that the government estimated.

    He’ll then have doubled his original investment in the process. Problem solved!


  41. GW Bush should just make it an executive order to accept it. If he can set aside the Constitution he can certainly get this done.

  42. Five simple words: “Nominal sum of One Dollar.”

  43. I’m the low bidder for the marble contract. Pay me one dollar, please…

  44. and for the bonehead above who believes Democrat fantasies. bush hasn’t done anything Congress hasn’t wanted him to do…

  45. This is something that Mccain and Palin could jump all over….wonder if they are even aware of it…??

  46. They should just put out an RFP and let him fill out the paperwork with all the requested details and a bid of $0.

  47. All is not as it seems. First of all, if you read the article, they have actually budgeted $80,000 for seeking bids and $90,000 for the marble itself. The vast majority of the $2.2 million is for shaping the marble, which this donation is not doing for free.

    More to the point, however, it is not at all ridiculous for the government to refuse a donation. From just a straight up donation, they have no idea of the quality of the marble. They have no information about how it is going to be transported. They have no idea whether someone else can offer something better – even if it is for $90,000. After all, that is only a tiny portion of the cost of this project.

    The need for proposals in this case is quite clear. What this guy should do, is submit a proposal following the guidelines set out in the request for proposals that the government put out. He can even make the price tag zero if he wants. If this is not feasible, perhaps he can give the marble to someone who is capable of putting together a proposal.

  48. I really like Mark’s answer to this. So what if it has a crack. It is historical. Keep it the way it is. It also means something more than perfect marble. But aside from that it is pretty stupid the rules would forbid a donation. I also understand the need to have fair bids when doing government work as weed out favortism by elected officials but when you rely on regulation alone with no way to use common sense then it can get pretty silly. It will take someone very strong to change Washington but it can be done. By use of media and public support one man or woman can do anything 😉

  49. Maybe someone in the goverment will get a kickback if they pay for marbel from somewhere else. I don’t think Government officials are dumb, when something like this happens I think it’s about $$$$

  50. Our government has to hire people who will spend our tax money wisely, not foolishly. Fire those cookoos and let that wonderful man who bought the needed marble to help repair the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. He is helping the government of the country he loves. I feel shamed by the government for rejecting such a great offer or gift. Fire Thurmond Higginbotham he needs classes in Accounting I, big time. Too bad for America’s finances. Taxpayers will always pay needlessly.

  51. Why doesn’t John Haines just bid $100 or whatever the minimum bid allowed is and win the bid. Sounds to me like that would solve the problem.

  52. go ahead and set up your own monument and then let the public put their feelings on it about all those air heads that is running this country…

  53. Mr. Haines, PLEASE do not give up! Your generousity and kindness should not go unserved. Thousands of vets are counting on you to make this happen to this sacred shrine. Your compasion is what America is all about.


  55. I am an engineer and attorney and have experience with government contracts.

    Some have suggested that the problem can be solved by Mr. Haines submitting a nominal bid for supplying the marble. This is not a good solution for a couple of reasons: 1. Mr. Haines is not an approved gov’t contractor and 2. If Mr. Haines is paid for the marble he assumes significant liability and exposes himself to a lawsuit if there are any problems, real or imagnined, with the marble or the repair work.

    The real problem is that even though the government could and should accept Mr. Haines’ donation, there is no incentive for them to do so; the government has a virtually endless supply of our money and spreads the cost of government projects and programs very thinly among the people while concentrating the benefits of projects and programs – the $2.2 million for the tomb project is less than one penny for each American; who has the time or interest in fighting a project like this to save less than one penny; those who benefit from the tomb project, designers, contractors, government bureaucrats like Thurmond Higginbotham have every incentive to maintain the status quo because their livelihood is directly related to government largess; further, in order for the government to accept Mr. Haines’ donation, someone like Higginbotham would need to do extra work and would need to make and be accountable for the decision to accept Mr. Haines’ donation – government bureaucrats or loathe to either of these things.

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