Government Spending

Welcome, Taxpayers!

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In the early 1990s, Congress got the idea that America needed an underground facility where tourists could escape D.C.'s August heat and February chill while waiting out the long lines to tour the Capitol building and meet their smiling congressman.  Estimated cost: about $70 million.

In the 15 years since, the project morphed into a sprawling, $621 million, three-story, ostentatious shrine to "the legislative process."  In other words, Congress built a tribute to itself.  So it's probably only fitting that members of Congress also took every opportunity throw lard at the project, just as if they were greasing up an appropriations bill.

From Citizens Against Government Waste:

Like the federal budget itself, Congress used the CVC as a warehouse for tens of millions of dollars in extravagant bells and whistles for itself. Even more reprehensible, members of Congress seeking to add special features for themselves used security concerns surrounding the September 11 attacks to justify their extravagant add-ons and constant change orders."

Original plans called for more than half of the CVC space to be left as unfinished "shell space", available to be outfitted for future needs. Instead, in 2001 Congress began implementing its wish list for the unfinished spaces. The House side got a two-story hearing room and the Senate grafted on a collection of small hearing rooms and a television and radio studio with adjoining makeup facilities so that senators could cut spots for their constituents back home. Those two efforts alone added $85 million to the cost of the CVC. The CVC will also have a 450-seat dining area, two orientation theaters (one for each chamber), a large auditorium, and an exhibition hall.

The building finally opened this week, three years past deadline and more than $300 million over an already bloated budget.  Yesterday's grand opening featured grand speechifying by congressional leaders and VIPs.  One thing it didn't feature:  tourists and taxpayers.  It was closed to the public.  And with good reason. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wasn't content with merely bilking taxpayers for Congress' half-billion-plus vanity project, he felt compelled to insult them, too:

"My staff tells me not to say this, but I'm going to say it anyway," said Reid in his remarks. "In the summer because of the heat and high humidity, you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol. It may be descriptive but it's true."

But it's no longer going to be true, noted Reid, thanks to the air conditioned, indoor space.

And that's not all. "We have many bathrooms here, as you can see," Reid continued. "Souvenirs are available."

But at least Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is livid about the project.  Alas, it's not because the Center is vain and wasteful.  DeMint is angry that the Center "ignored his request to include the phrase 'In God We Trust' and the Pledge of Allegiance."  If only they had included a chapel, too!

Overly grandiose, self-important, self-congratulatory, larded with wasteful add-ons demanded by individual politicians, contemptuous of taxpayers—come to think of it, this whole sorry episode might actually be the perfect tribute to Congress.

I wrote about Congress' inability to stop the cluttering of the National Mall two years ago in reason.

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58 responses to “Welcome, Taxpayers!

  1. There is no tourist alive whose smell can compare to the stench of corruption emanating from Harry Reid’s office.

    -jcr

  2. Harry Reid and his meddling ilk have a certain odor about them that no amount of soap and water will ever take away.

  3. this sounds cool, i can’t wait to visit

  4. We should totally put these guys in control of health care and banking.

  5. Can’t we have a Constitutional Amendment stipulating that Congressmen get paid only the minimum wage?

  6. I love the smell of fatty midwestern tourist B.O. in the morning. It smells like…victory.

  7. HAHA!

    Well said, Radley.

  8. I bet the tourists really do smell, though.

  9. DeMint, as the Right often does, identifies the problem with this Temple of Ozymandias: “The current CVC displays are left-leaning and in some cases distort our true history. Exhibits portray the federal government as the fulfillment of human ambition and the answer to all of society’s problems.”

    Unfortunately DeMint then ruins his point, again as the Right often does. He’d be fine with the federal government being the fulfillment of human ambition, if it was just staffed with Bible-thumpers and creationists.

  10. Can’t we just rename “U.S. Senate” to “U.S. Asylum for Megalomanic Windbags”?

  11. Ha! That’s awesome! To have the stones to say something like that is just inspiring. Fucking hack!

  12. Can’t we have a Constitutional Amendment stipulating that Congressmen get paid only the minimum wage?

    IIRC, “President Bill” had a similar idea–that members of Congress would receive an income no higher than that of his/her poorest constituents. (All hail Randomocracy!)

  13. “Souvenirs are available.”

    oh JOY!!!

  14. Allow me to use this as thread as an appropriate place to say FUCK THEM.

  15. “My staff tells me not to say this..”

    Your staff was correct.

    ps: I think chapel only has one “p”.

  16. Souvenirs are available.

    At least there’s some potential profit there. I predict in 60 – 70 million years, this place will nearly pay for itself.

  17. I seriously want a meteor to hit Congress. Just a small one, though.

  18. Now I want to mail Reid a turd so he can “smell the taxpayer.”

  19. Anyone who votes for Reid now is a complete moron. I love my people–pull!

  20. “Overly grandiose, self-important, self-congratulatory, larded with wasteful add-ons demanded by individual politicians, contemptuous of taxpayers-come to think of it, this whole sorry episode might actually be the perfect tribute to Congress.”

    Nailed it.

    Of course, Reid et al are so clueless that this is their private jet moment, yet can’t see it. Oh well…..I wonder if people will talk about this in the same vein as a political equivelant of a ‘jumping the shark’ moment.

  21. Hahaha sage.
    Seriously, fuck these clowns.

  22. In a totally unrelated post – Check out the internal blockquote.

    J sub D | November 14, 2008, 9:37am

    Cartoon rating – ??? (out of 5)

    I’d explain all of the difficulties that beset the Big 2.5 but you’d all just get bored with a ten thousand word post. Any demands that the government makes as a condition of loan guarantees will just increase the flow of red ink.

    A not atypical example of government mangerial expertise

    Three years behind schedule and almost $360 million above budget, the Capitol Visitor Center prepares to open its doors to millions of tourists who now must endure long lines without food, restrooms or shelter to catch a glimpse of the halls of Congress.

    The underground center, the largest single construction project in the Capitol’s two-century history in terms of size and expense, is to open to the public on Dec. 2. The final cost of the project is put at $621 million, more than double the $265 million estimated cost had the center been completed on schedule in December, 2005.

    Personally, I think GM ought to declare chapter 11 and renogotiate every UAW contract. Even the deluded heirs of Walter Reuther have to realize by now that UAW wages, benefits, and work rules are unsustainable. If the union balks, liquidate.

  23. Meh. A public building that any member of the public can visit is around the least worst category of govt expenditures. Not every constuction project can be the Supreme Court building.

  24. Do Murtha and Reid have a secret bet about who can piss off their constituents more?

    My constituents are racists!

    Oh yeah, mine stink on ice!

  25. ps: I think chapel only has one “p”.

    No, Radley’s a big fan of Dave Chappel.

  26. That’s nothing.

  27. I wonder if people will talk about this in the same vein as a political equivelant of a ‘jumping the shark’ moment.

    Some small group might. Most think this happened long ago, and others will never think so. All three groups will continue to re-elect their local hero ad infinitum.

  28. Abdul: Any mook can insult his/her own constituents. To win a contest with Murtha, you’d have to do that WHILE STILL WINNING.

    No wonder they have such contempt for us.

  29. I have a cunning plan.

  30. win a contest with Murtha, you’d have to do that WHILE STILL WINNING.

    Good. I hope Murtha bet Reid that the loser has to be a men’s room attendant for a day at the new CVC.

  31. DING DING DING we have a winner, 10 out of 10 on the political douchebaggery scale…no more submittals please until next week

  32. My cunning plan is this:

    Recalling Alan Sokal’s hoax on the postmodern academic world in publishing his “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity”, what America needs is someone to get elected to Congress as a hoax.

    What I envision is a guy or gal who gets elected, then says and does–within legal limits to avoid prosecution–absolutely ridiculous things. I know the bar for ridiculous in Congress is exceedingly high, but there’s still room for nuttiness. A big part of the hoax should be our congressperson regularly, frequently, and publicly insulting his constituency.

    Naturally, the real test is to do all of this, then run for re-election. If our hoaxer wins, then he reveals his hoax to the world.

  33. If there was a God, Episiarch’s meteor would hit while they were cutting the ribbon.

  34. Episiarch owns a meteor? Wow.

  35. Naturally, the real test is to do all of this, then run for re-election. If our hoaxer wins, then he reveals his hoax to the world.

    Before he does there needs to be a referendum where the general public tries to guess who the guy is. Every legislator getting more votes than the hoaxter is impeached.

  36. swillfredo pareto,

    That’s a good idea.

  37. In 1993 I went to the Capitol. I didn’t wait in line but I did have to go through a metal detector as I went through the door into the rotunda.

    I was then able to walk through almost the whole building completely unsupervised and only mildly scrutinized by the occasional security type. There were also conducted tours available to those who wanted a structured tour. From what I saw of them they seemed to be conducted by pleasant and well-informed young people.

    Hardly any of the building seemed to be off-limits to the public and when they were, there seemed to be a perfectly good reason.

    It was almost as though our rulers trusted and liked us.

    I came away really liking America and being happy that I was born here.

    You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!

  38. Episiarch owns a meteor? Wow.

    It’s really not as impressive as it seems. He really only uses to threaten old ladies and win bar bets.

  39. Isaac Bartram,

    I had a very similar experience and thought process when I worked in DC in 1995. And that was after Oklahoma City! I recall sitting next to Paul Simon with a package (a gift I was shipping to my brother) that no one had inspected. Today, I’d be shot for even having something like that near a senator.

  40. He really only uses to threaten old ladies and win bar bets.

    Didn’t he scratch one of the Hubble’s solar panels with it that one time? Or was that somebody else’s meteor?

  41. The problem with owning a meteor or, more precisely, a meteoroid, is that you can only use it once.

  42. I regret to inform you, but the souvenir shop at our monument to taxation is going bankrupt. And bankrupcy is not an option here.

    So it will need a bailout you smelly fools.

  43. Ah, 1993. The goode olde dayes. It’s hard to believe we were ever so innocent. Hell, my office building is probably more heavily guarded now than the Capitol was then. And I bet there were fewer machine-gun toting military types loitering around the streets back then, too.

  44. Pro Libertate @ 3:43:

    I think you just described Al Franken’s run for Senate.

  45. It’s really not as impressive as it seems. He really only uses to threaten old ladies and win bar bets.

    It’s bigger than yours, bitch.

    Didn’t he scratch one of the Hubble’s solar panels with it that one time? Or was that somebody else’s meteor?

    I’d never let my meteor touch that ugly thing. Must have been John’s.

    The problem with owning a meteor or, more precisely, a meteoroid, is that you can only use it once.

    Speak for yourself. I use mine all the time.

  46. That would be good, but I fear that Franken is all too serious.

    I like how his recount is uncovering hundreds of votes in his favor. That’s funny.

  47. Sure you do. How do you get it back into space? If you’re just using it up there to, say, disrupt satellites and stuff, that’s not very impressive.

  48. Naturally, the real test is to do all of this, then run for re-election. If our hoaxer wins, then he reveals his hoax to the world.

    Sean Avery for Congress! He’s got some free time right now that he can use for campaigning.

  49. Pro Lib-

    As for election hoaxes, how about a 1992 cinematic version, The Distinguished Gentleman? Eddie Murphy, Lane Smith, James Garner. Not quite the same hoax, but it was the last really funny Eddie Murphy pic.

  50. I can see it now- a bunch of Congressmen and Senators wandering around, sayng, “This is nice. It would be an awful shame to waste it on a lot of smelly sucke- errrr, constituents.”

  51. Speaking as someone who used to walk about in Washington DC in the summer, I have to say, you do get pretty ripe.

  52. “We have many bathrooms here, as you can see,” Reid continued. “Souvenirs are available.”

    Just what I want for Christmas. A fresh steaming pile.

  53. Joe-

    All of that walking around in DC during those summers of yesteryear must account for that pungent Potomac aroma.

  54. Can’t we have a Constitutional Amendment stipulating that Congressmen get paid only the minimum wage?

    Better yet, limit congressional compensation to reimbursement of expenses, only. Legislating should be like jury duty. If those assholes all had to make a living at a real job, they’d be far less tax-happy.

    -jcr

  55. Can’t we have a Constitutional Amendment stipulating that Congressmen get paid only the minimum wage?

    Actually I think we should raise their salary to 5 million a year….the ones in power now would quickly be replaced by more talented managers.

  56. Next time I’m around DC for a while I’m going to see if I can get a slot at one of Reid’s constituent meet and greets (might be hard since I’m not from Nevada), so I can go after not bathing/using deodorant/brushing my teeth and eating italian subs with extra vinegar and onions for 3 days.

  57. Paging Bill Ayers. Bill Ayers, you’re wanted at the CVC. Bring your tools.

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