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


Courtesy 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.


As 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 Wikipedia

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 (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.