Every time the public rails against the civil service, it is important to remember economist Milton Friedman’s ominous words, “Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat scorned.” A government watchdog is out with another report that lends credence to the political hypothesis that civil servants are exacting revenge on the American people for rebuking them over three-hour coffee breaks, watching too much pornography, and failing to do anything of value. But the study leads to one question: Can you blame the taxpayers for having such a poor view of government employees?
Abuse of Your Money
According to Open the Books, a pro-transparency non-governmental organization, federal agencies spent a whopping $97 billion in the final month of fiscal year 2018, a 16% increase from the previous fiscal year. On what did the 66 arms of the government spend such an exorbitant sum? It surely wasn’t anything to benefit the American people. Instead, bureaucrats decided to treat themselves to everything from luxury food to musical instruments to sporting goods.
If you don’t want your blood pressure to spike, then look away from your screen. If your stomach can handle this gross abuse of your hard-earned dollars, then here are some specific examples:
- $10 million on lobster tail, snow crab, and sirloin steaks.
- $1.7 million on pianos, tubas, and trombones.
- $9.8 million on workout and recreation equipment.
- $41,000 on clocks.
- $412,000 on paint and artist’s brushes.
- $674,000 on golf carts.
The watchdog further discovered, “In the final seven days of the fiscal year, agencies ramped up their spending to a total $53 billion—that’s more than they spent in the entire month of August.”
Before you play devil’s advocate and present the argument that our hard-working, deserving civil servants need all that lobster tail, it should be pointed out that this is part of a “use it or lose it” scheme.
Under this program, departments, agencies, and bureaus spend all of their budgets in order to either maintain the same amount each year or receive an increase. If they do not use the entire budget, then they risk facing cuts in the future. Simply put, the feds spend every penny they have rather than do the right thing and show they can operate their departments with fewer tax dollars.
Of course, this might seem unethical, but it is perfectly legal thanks to politicians and public unions who believe it is acceptable to spend $7,000 on fidget spinner toys, which are probably in the trash now, and $62,000 on paddle boards.
Government Finance is a Mess
Let’s be candid: The government’s finances are a mess. They are worse than a mess; they are a disaster zone that has defied the laws of physics and are not fit for human eyes.
As the U.S. government surpasses $22 trillion in debt, it is important to wonder how the country got into this fiscal calamity in the first place. Sure, politicians overpromised generous benefits to garner power, and these costly promises will inevitably send the nation into insolvency. But there is another underlying issue that supports your grandfather’s view that if you watch the pennies, then the dollars will follow.
In the private sector, if a company spends less on overhead than it budgeted for, then the business and its employees are rewarded. In the public sector, the opposite is true; if an agency spends less than they received, they’ll be supposedly punished with fewer dollars and cents.
While this practice is not likely to end anytime soon, some lawmakers are submitting proposals to crack down on this taxpayer pillage. Senator Rand Paul (R-K) and several others have put forward the Bonuses for Cost-Cutters Act, which would consist of Congress going through budgets line by line to consolidate duplicative programs, establish priorities, slash waste, and increase oversight. It is not a nostrum that will eliminate the national debt tomorrow, next year, or even next decade. But it might finally prove that legislators and bureaucrats are showing taxpayers at least a modicum of respect.
Drain the Swamp
President Donald Trump ascended to power on a campaign promise of draining the Swamp. Unfortunately, more than two years into his administration, the Swamp appears to be sinking ever so slowly. To regain the public’s trust the government needs to immediately abandon this use-it-or-lose-it philosophy and respect those who are forced to fork over large portions of their income to the leviathan. Cash-strapped Americans wish they could use somebody else’s money to purchase arcade machines, rib eye, and pianos. Only in government could such theft be legal.