All American taxpayers should be grateful this April 15, as we curse and finish our returns and contemplate how much we pay to our federal government: we have the General Services Administration out there working for us.
You all know the GSA, of course. Its website describes the GSA as “responsible for improving the government’s workplace by managing assets, delivering maximum value in acquisitions, preserving historic property, and implementing technology solutions.” To translate: the GSA are the bureaucrats bureaucrats.
The GSA has been in the news lately, but not due to its selfless performance of its crucial bureaucratic mission. No, the GSA is in the news because the agency spent $822,000 — $822,000 — on its 2010 Western Regions Conference in Las Vegas. That included payments for upscale accommodations, commemorative coins, and $3,200 for a “mind reader,” among other indefensible expenditures. When an Inspector General’s report uncovered the gross waste, the GSA Administrator resigned. Now the GSA official charged with organizing the event, who has been subpoenaed to testify about the matter before Congress, has indicated he will invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. In short, there’s not just concern about bad judgment — there’s concern that outright criminal conduct may have occurred.
If you look at the GSA website, you’ll find a video of the acting administrator of the GSA, Dan Tangherlini, soberly pledging that the GSA will adhere to the highest standards of ethics and service. (You’ll also learn that the GSA has its own flag, which appears behind him. Thank God for that!) The video is a classic of buzzwords and bureaucratese — other governmental bodies are called “client agencies” and “customers,” and the response to the abuse of the Western Regions Conference talks about rules and “top-down” agency reviews. In short, the timeless solution to abusive practices in the bureaucracy is more bureaucracy!
Forgive me if I’m not reassured that the same agency that allowed the abuse is recommitted to its end. The only real solution to waste and abuse in government is to cut back government, period. Does anyone really think the country would grind to a halt if the GSA budget were reduced to one-third of its current size?
As I sign and send my returns today, I’ll be thinking of the GSA and its careful stewardship of our tax dollars. And during this campaign season, when we hear candidates for federal offices talk about how “draconian” proposed budget cuts are, and how we need to raise taxes because cutting spending is just too difficult, I’ll think “Remember the GSA!” And then I’ll vote for their opponent.