April 25, 2012 3 Comments
Do you think this is an isolated event? Of course not. This wasteful spending goes on every hour of every day, at every government department. The reason is simple- they couldn’t care less because it’s not their money. It’s taxpayer money– yours and mine.
I’ve been in business for 30 years. If there is one lesson I’ve learned, it’s that if you give an employee a corporate credit card with no controls on it they will spend and waste money like a drunken sailor. People who guard their own credit cards like skinflints, and won’t even order bottled water or soda at dinner when the bill is on them, suddenly order the best wine in the house when they have the company credit card.
He’s absolutely right, I’ve been in business for myself off and on for 40 years, and I couldn’t agree more. You know what else, I’m that way too when I’m working on somebody else’s dime. We all are, it’s part of being human. I do try to keep it in check, though.
Now imagine you’re a government supergrade, you’re protected by the civil service laws (that’s a story for another time), your manager doesn’t care, the President looks like he does the same thing, and the paymaster (the taxpayers) are inchoate and will probably never know. Why wouldn’t you have the best you could buy with other people’s money (OPM). Further imagine that you’re an executive in an agency that is sitting on trillions of dollars worth of vacant property and making no effort to even lease it, let alone sell it. Why would you care?
There is only two reasons you would; 1:) You are a moral person, who believes in the old saw “Waste not; Want not.” or 2.) You’re afraid of being caught (reread the preceding paragraph). So there’s only one reason, and that is a very frail reed indeed to lean on.
There is only one cure for this situation and that is leadership and the culture that goes with it. And I don’t mean leading from behind. If the President and your cabinet secretary and your manager all say and show that they are not going to tolerate this, preferably with at least a few prosecutions, you’ll think long and hard before jet setting off to the South Pacific with your wife on the taxpayer’s dime, if not, you won’t. Which is exactly why the military (as usual) invented the Inspector General. He’s supposed to be our watchdog on these agencies, sometimes it works, apparently it did here.
One of the things I’ve always found with government employees is that they don’t stick their neck out. In truth, we shouldn’t call them bureaucrats, they’re turtles. You all know this, just remember your last trip to the DMV. They know they’ve got it good, very good: good pay, easy work, almost impossible to lose your job, great benefits (often free), never having to think, let alone saying you’re sorry. Why in blazes would they rock the boat?
I’ll give you a personal example. In our business we could use another service truck, by default it would be mine. Because of my skillset, I do a lot of farm work which means I spend a good part of my field time up on poles or the side of grain bins or such. Some of my field time is spent laying out jobs and looking for problems (like underground obstructions). The rest is spent troubleshooting and supervising crews. Those are my basic field jobs. This is not exactly a normal set up because as an owner of the company (and because I want to add a truck) I will buy new hand tools. That’s usually a personal expense but, in my case it’s a difference without a distinction.
Given that job description the truck for that job will cost somewhere north of $300,000 (I’m still specifying some things). Sounds insane doesn’t it? But you know the ROI on it is less than five years, if the economy improves enough, possibly less than 3. Plus, I expect it to make me about 2-3 times more efficient. In other words, I can objectively justify it, if I worked for a (medium or large) corporation I’d probably get it. In our company, well, it’s nice to have a dream.
And that is the difference between the private sector, small, medium, large and the government. Control. Control of personnel, control of expenses, objective control. And if you want to succeed, leadership. To add to the above example, if I let my truck idle all day, think my people are going to shut their off? Yeah, me neither. If you want to lead in the big things, lead in the small.
Oh the Secret Service? I rather like Wayne’s comment there, too.
Now to the Secret Service Scandal. Taxpayers should cheer the agents in the Columbian prostitution scandal. Heck we should throw them a parade. Don’t fire them. Put those agents in charge of our government. They did two things right that should be taught to every government employee.
First, they used their own money. Glory Hallelujah! Obama spends taxpayer money by the hundreds of millions for his lavish family vacations. And of course, not only has Obama spent every cent of taxpayer money on his personal trips, he’s added over $5 Trillion in new debt for our children and grandchildren to pay. Compared to Obama these Secret Service agents should get commendations for enjoying their vices with their own money. How refreshing!
Second, and here’s the truly amazing lesson for all government bureaucrats- the Secret Service agents actually tried to save money. These skinflint agents that promised the Columbian hooker $800 and then tried to give her $30 should be commended for their efficiency. They have a talent that needs to be taught to all levels of government. U.S. taxpayers should pay them to teach other government employees how to negotiate and save money. Then, when they return from these seminars across the USA, put them in charge of the GSA. They have the kind of attitude and skills that just might save America from bankruptcy.
There are some other factors in play here of course, like national security but, he makes a very valid point.
- Rep. Issa on GSA criminal charges (cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com)
- Axelrod Discusses GSA Spending, Obama (myfoxphoenix.com)
- GOP Sen: Scandals Expose Obama Leadership Weakness (usnews.com)
- Corruption: Nebraska, Washington D.C. and Overcriminalization (nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com)
- GSA’s Jeffrey Neely mired in ‘culture of waste’ (sfgate.com)
- GSA waste goes much deeper than the Las Vegas junket – latimes.com (mbcalyn.com)