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Stop the presses: Big-spending Democrats are finally up in arms over a federal boondoggle. Details of the U.S. General Services Administration bacchanalia get worse by the day. We’ve graduated from overpriced breakfasts in Vegas, friends-and-family junkets galore and in-house videos mocking their own profligacy to extravagant bonuses, alleged kickbacks, obstructionism and bribes.
But the scandal is still small potatoes compared to the potential billions GSA is pouring down the Big Labor drain.
Whistleblowers and an independent inspector general investigation estimate that the GSA’s Sin City conference cost taxpayers an estimated $1 million in 2010. Washington bureaucrats squandered another $234,000 on public relations damage control. An interim GSA director announced Tuesday on Capitol Hill that 35 upcoming conferences would be canceled at a cost savings of less than $1 million. Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland vowed that GSA officials would be “made to pay back” taxpayers.
The arrogance of these civil servants is, of course, jaw-dropping. Regional Commissioner Jeff Neely, the Paris Hilton of GSA party animals, wrote in an invitation to personal friends: “We’ll get you guys a room near us, and we’ll pick up the room tab. … I know I’m bad, but as Deb and I often say, why not enjoy it while we have it and while we can. Ain’t gonna last forever.”
Neely’s gone, along with seven other top administrators, and the GSA travel budget has dried up for now. But this is just a sliver of the permanently enshrined waste that constitutes the bread-and-butter business of the behemoth agency, which runs on a $45 billion annual budget — including $5.5 billion in federal stimulus money to oversee capital building projects.
Thanks to President Obama (whose White House reflexively tried to blame Party in the GSA-gate on the Bush administration), the federal government is steering that money toward Big Labor patrons with a proven track record of cost overruns, construction delays and corruption.
As I’ve reported previously, the linchpin is E.O. 13502, a union-friendly executive order signed by Obama in his first weeks in office. It essentially forces contractors who bid on large-scale public construction projects worth $25 million or more to submit to union representation for its employees. The blunt instrument used to give unions a leg up is the “project labor agreement,” which in theory sets reasonable pre-work terms and conditions. But in practice, it requires contractors to hand over exclusive bargaining control, to pay inflated, above-market wages and benefits, and to fork over dues money and pension funding to corrupt, cash-starved labor organizations.
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