Government Spending

Reason Writers at Matt Welch on the GSA Scandal and the Real "Sin City"


Million-dollar wedding

Writing at CNN Opinion, Reason Editor in Chief Matt Welch compares two politically controversial Las Vegas trips: That of Wells Fargo executives in 2009, and General Services Administration employees in 2010. Excerpt:

A funny thing about collective shame—we are happy to administer it on CEOs who get their arms twisted by the feds, yet we shy away from applying it to one of the only truly collective entities we have: taxpayer-funded government. […]

And let's not forget what the GSA does: As The New York Times puts it, the agency is "essentially the government's personal shopper for big-ticket items, like buying and leasing buildings and cars." These are precisely the people tasked with making sure taxpayer dollars are spent most wisely. […]

The surprise isn't that a federal agency went wild, or even that it got caught. What remains a genuine stumper is that the rest of the country hasn't quite figured out that the real Sin City has relocated 2,500 miles east.

Read the whole thing here.

NEXT: Come Back, Technology, All is Forgiven: A Libertarian Repents

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  1. Libertarian griefer:
    ‘Jeeze, another taxpayer-funded ‘green’ outfit down the tubes.’
    Liberal griefer:
    ‘Yeah, but did you see X’s annual bonus!?’
    There *is* a difference.

  2. “You are not going to be able to give out these big bonuses until you’ve paid taxpayers back,” Obama said at a town hall meeting. “You can’t get corporate jets, you can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers’ dime.”

    He should have added: “… unless you work for the federal government.”

    Hackneyed start to an otherwise fine article. I suppose the GSA got caught because its spendthriftery was so obviously egregious. But we have to know that it happens in every bloated agency with money that has to be spent so that budgets aren’t cut the following year.

    1. It’s not just so that budgets aren’t cut the following year. The Budget Control and Impoundment Act of 1974 made it essentially illegal to fail to spend appropriated money. It is absolutely impossible now for the Executive Branch to claim that it has achieved goals and return appropriated money, unless Congress deigns to vote on a recission proposal.

      1. Well, this could be a simple part of the overall fix. Remove the impediment to returning unused money, and offer incentives for cost savings to federal employees. The trick is making sure budgets don’t get padded for later cutting for a bonus.

  3. Wow, the comments on the article at CNN are something else. Turns out that $822K is not that much money compared to CEO bonuses.

  4. Yeah, government may have screwed up, but EVUL CORPORASHUNS!

  5. I have a question that I can’t find answered. Were these GSA employees located around the country, or all sent out from DC? If from all around the country, they obviously need to meet somewhere, and off-strip Vegas is likely the best deal in the country for accommodations, meeting rooms and flights. I am involved in some lower-funded medical societies that go there for meetings to take advantage of room rates like $39 a night and airfare pennies compared to flying anywhere else. Vegas just wants you there!

    In regards for the other costs, it all sounds like typical team-building exercises that are not all that extravagant. Most people have probably done things like this in their companies. Our hospital medical staff recently had a retreat where everyone had to play bongos along with a percussion band for an hour, first thing that day. I’m sure it cost a lot, but it removed everyone’s apprehensions and the meeting was very interactive and fruitful from that point on — the whole day went by very fast.

    This whole excursion cost about $2700 per employee. Doesn’t sound like a huge expense to me, especially if improved performance can be documented as a result. Certainly failure to meet, expecting everyone to slog on anonymously, might be a much worse — though not easily documented — outcome.

    1. Two words: Fortune. Teller.

      And three more words:

      Not. Their. Money.

      1. Two words: Fortune. Teller.

        The Romani have to make their living too, you racist.

    2. See, the thing is, you don’t get to rail against corporations going to Vegas for conferences and team-building and then turn around and do it yourself. That’s called hypocrisy.

    3. Most people have probably done things like this in their companies.


      I work for a living.

    4. I do a lot of estimation for my company, including travel and living arrangements, and our rule of thumb is $1000/week/person, plus travel expenses. That would put them at around $450,000. Add in the cost of a decent-sized room for 300 and I’d say $500,000 at the outside is reasonable (assuming the conference was a week long, which I doubt).

      1. $50K for a week’s stay for 300 people in a hotel? Let’s say just four nights – that’s only enough for $40/night, not including taxes and gratuities, which are always added in advance for big things like this. I think $100K would make more sense, so now you are at $550K. That leaves $270K for airfare, ground transfers, luggage fees for 300. Figure 400 for air, 70 for luggage, 250 for four ground transfers, even by your calculations you are getting pretty close to their numbers.

    5. Anacreon, your facts are spoiling our narrative.

      Damn you.

    6. Doesn’t sound like a huge expense to me,

      Um, why the fuck were they needing a “team building exercise” in the first place?

      Who are they competing against?

      And maybe this isn’t the same at every company right now, but stupid junkets that normally lose money in terms of added revenue to the company aren’t very popular at the places where I work.

    7. loyee. Doesn’t sound like a huge expense to me, especially if improved performance can be documented as a result.

      Very good effort, but with those words I clearly caught you slide your tongue against your cheek. Improved performance, in the Federal government, HA!

    8. Anacreon,

      They were around the Western states, and I think there were a few employees coming in from overseas (the government has a lot of buildings in it’s bases in asia, and GSA employees to manage them).

    9. Doesn’t sound like a huge expense to me, especially if improved performance can be documented as a result.

      That’s a pretty big if.

  6. Anyone else getting “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey” banner ads? Is this our punishment for making fun of the OWS Masters in Puppetry guy?

    1. I was going to ask the same question. Yes.

    2. Yeah… puppets and Obama/Biden – but I repeat myself.

    3. Yep. I was wondering if it was the fact I subscribe to the Sesame Street YouTube channel for my kid’s Elmo videos that caused that.

    4. Yup. It appears that Warren’s people wised up (or ran out of money).

    5. Adblock. Keeps me safe from OWS Master’s in Faggotry Puppetry Wierdo Guy inspired Elmo ad.

    6. No, but I only visit reason with cached images set to load, and no Flash crap.

  7. I find the Wells Fargo CEO’s protestations against the TARP to have been rather hollow, given how exposed their balance sheet was (and remains) to mortgages. Maybe he figured that the federal government would never allow the disorderly liquidation of the real estate market, and so his bank would have been protected from the fallout regardless of whether it participated in TARP.

    There’s a big difference between a calculated gambit like that, and the principled opposition to bailouts which morally would entitle a company with a taxpayer-guaranteed balance sheet to pay whatever executive bonuses it likes.

  8. Hmm, I used to consume some Gram every day, and I still will take a listen at a party or something, but these days I prefer to stay home alone with straight Merle Haggard.

  9. First link 404:…..t-is-bette

    1. Was Reason shilling for TARP-boy again? It’s like a fucking LINO moderate Republican website with a bunch of free-market leftist commenters.

      1. I don’t know why you give a damn who they shill for. They aren’t anarchists so that makes all politicians the same amirite broseph?

  10. I read an article on where Joe Lieberman was quoted as just being outraged about this. Funny how he doesn’t seem to have a problem with the $1 trillion wasted in Iraq.

    1. Run for the border, someone place Timmy’s order for a taco, taco, and a soda. Taco, taco, and a burrito! Now, he wont be able to do it himself.…..taxpayers/

      Oh, wait, the IRS falls under his authority, right? Never mind, he can make those conferences to Davos after all!

  11. Dude is not making a lot of sense man.

  12. Love the Gram Parsons reference, especially the “million dollar wedding” tag. But shouldn’t that be “trillion dollar wedding”?

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