On the day after GSA Administrator Jeff Neely repeatedly took the Fifth when asked to ‘splain to Congress the $823,000 party he threw in Vegas at taxpayer expense, the Washington Post reports that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta “said he regretted” the cost to taxpayers ($800,000 since July) of his frequent trips home to California.
Yeah, I regret it, too. Most people consider the cost of relocation or, alternatively, travel to and from home in deciding whether to take a job. But, if the taxpayer is picking up the tab, why bother? Whoopee.
The story says that when he was in Congress Panetta paid for his own frequent flying. I bet he went home less frequently—just a guess—but why keep paying for airfare when you can stick the taxpayer? The Post notes:
Since becoming defense secretary in July, however, his travels have attracted more attention, in part because Pentagon leaders say they are scraping by to adjust to a new era of austerity. Under a defense budget that will shrink slightly next year for the first time since 1998, Panetta has proposed closing military bases, cutting the number of active-duty troops and raising health insurance premiums for military retirees.
The story adds that under rules established by former President George W. Bush, the defense secretary is required to fly on military planes. But wouldn’t most people, confronted with such a restriction, say to themselves, “Hmmm…it costs the Pentagon $3,200 to operate that 3-C7A. Wow! That’s sure sticking it to the American people. Maybe I should join a book club or gym and try to find a way to spend weekends happily in Washington?”
I’m sure Mr. Panetta misses his family. I’m told that soldiers fighting in foreign wars miss their families, too. But, unlike bureaucrats, soldiers aren’t members of the new royalty: government officials who have reached a level at which they don’t have to worry about spending money because it’s not their money.
There is one way to curtail this—and it’s not having more “oversight.” It is reducing the number of freeloaders. That is why these remarks, by Mitt Romney, at a fundraiser were music to my ears:
“‘I’m going to take a lot of departments in Washington, and agencies, and combine them. Some eliminate, but I’m probably not going to lay out just exactly which ones are going to go,’ Romney said. ‘Things like Housing and Urban Development, which my dad was head of, that might not be around later. But I’m not going to actually go through these one by one. What I can tell you is, we’ve got far too many bureaucrats. I will send a lot of what happens in Washington back to the states.’…
Fewer bureaucrats=fewer jerks taking advantage of the taxpayer.