The recent exposure of extravagant GSA spending is further confirmation that our government is too large and out of control.
The General Services Administration is responsible for managing the business of the federal government, including its vast portfolio of real estate holdings. This includes everything from providing office space for federal employees to overseeing preservation of historic federal properties. It has over 12,000 employees with a budget over $26 billion as of 2008. According to the GSA website, only about 2% of its budget comes from direct congressional appropriation while the rest comes from selling its products and services. This is disingenuous since, of course, it sells theses products and services to other parts of the federal government which are directly funded by congressional appropriation.
The GSA is one of those sleepy federal agencies most Americans have never heard much about since their function is boring and unsexy. They’re not involved in high profile military operations; they don’t investigate drug lords; and they don’t make major scientific discoveries. They provide office space and office supplies. So, while no one was paying any attention, GSA managers decided to live the good life at taxpayer expense figuring that no one would notice or care.
Government agencies employ various Inspector Generals to oversee agency operations and ostensibly protect the taxpayers from fraud and abuse. The Inspector General (IG) is the watchdog to prevent fraud by government employees by conducting audits of agency budgets and expenditures. The GSA IG discovered numerous discrepancies in GSA accounting for their 2010 Western Regions Conference held in Las Vegas and issued a scathing report detailing these abuses of taxpayer resources. This conference cost taxpayers some $822,000 so connected and high ranking GSA officials could enjoy the good life while America was mired in recession and taxpayers were struggling to make ends meet.
Jeff Neely, the GSA official in charge of planning this conference, has indicated that he plans to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights ahead of a scheduled hearing before Congressman Darrell Issa’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Portions of the IG’s report detail lavish private parties held by Neely during the conference and describe how Neely’s wife, who is not a GSA employee, was intimately involved in the planning of these events. Facing possible criminal charges stemming from taxpayer fraud, it is no surprise that Neely is pleading the Fifth.
Of course, the Obama Administration immediately blamed his predecessor George Bush as being responsible for the outlandish waste occurring on Obama’s watch at the GSA. This is standard Obama Administration practice and has come to be expected anytime any unflattering government action is uncovered. Three years into Obama’s presidency, George Bush is still being blamed for every government sin happening on Obama’s watch, while Obama is quick to claim credit for any positive action even if its groundwork was laid under Bush.
Conservatives have long argued that the federal government is too large, is out of control, and is growing too fast and must be reduced if we are going to have any chance of reestablishing responsible and cost-effective governance. The progressive liberal crowd paints this argument as conservatives wanting to cut off government services that Americans depend on for their survival, while they are really intent on protecting the jobs of unionized federal workers who support their agenda. As government grows, it amasses more power over Americans and consumes more individual liberty. It takes more resources away from the economy, meaning that fewer resources are available to invest in productive enterprises that employ Americans. As capital is pulled out of the market and consumed by the government, fewer jobs are created and Americans become ever more dependent upon the federal government and the bureaucrats who run it to survive. The government does not produce anything; it only consumes a portion of the fruits of production from those who produce. The more it consumes, the less there is to reinvest in the economy to keep it growing.
Americans have long been aware that the government was riddled with waste. Episodes like this lavish GSA conference serve as painful reminders to Americans of what we have come to expect from the federal behemoth. It is especially galling considering Obama’s near doubling of the federal debt in three years with nothing to show for all of his wasteful spending. Back in 2009, Obama criticized private companies for holding conferences in Las Vegas and decimated the Las Vegas convention business. Obama claimed that these conferences represented excessive spending at a time when Americans were suffering the ravages of recession (which he conveniently blamed on George Bush). According to Obama, when private companies hold conventions in Las Vegas, it’s everybody’s business, but when the federal government holds conventions in Las Vegas, then what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.