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Other People's Money

7:04 AM, Oct 3, 2012 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
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In Washington, they like to do things up right.  If you are the Veterans Administration, and you decide to have a couple of conferences, then you don't hold back.  The country may be deep in debt and sinking but that is no reason not to spend “$6.1 million on two weeklong conferences.”

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That includes "about $762,000" in what a 142 page inspector general's report calls “‘unauthorized, unnecessary, and/or wasteful expenses’ during two conferences held in Orlando, Fla., that included $49,516 to produce a parody video of the late-Gen. George S. Patton.”

This isn't something new in the annals of government by self-indulgence. There was the famous General Service Administration scandal, a while back.  That one centered around an “$800,000 Las Vegas conference featuring clowns, a mind reader and a red-carpet party.”

The continuing investigation of the GSA has unearthed other extravagant parties, including one where people could attend without flying to Las Vegas.  They merely had to ride the D.C. Metro to Crystal City to attend an event that “included a private commissioner’s party, a drumming troupe, more than $20,000 in catering charges, hors d’oeuvres, mini-pastries, a guitarist and violinist, and giveaways to government employees who took home free time-and-temperature picture frames and drumsticks.”

The lavish conferences would be one thing if: a) The country and the government could afford them and b) the agencies were doing their jobs.   

Neither, of course, is the case. 

When the GSA is derelict, it just means the government isn't handling its real estate holdings efficiently. The VA, however, is something else. Taxpayers will have a hard time reconciling those lavish conferences with what the Times has described as a “crushing inventory of claims for disability, pension and educational benefits that has overwhelmed the Department of Veterans Affairs. For hundreds of thousands of veterans, the result has been long waits for decisions, mishandled documents, confusing communications and infuriating mistakes in their claims.”

The bureaucrats, meanwhile, party on.

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