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.
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.