How the feds spend our tax dollars

President Obama was upset when he learned that his General Services Administration spent nearly a million dollars in late 2010 on a conference for regional staffers in Henderson. While we probably shouldn't complain about federal spending in Nevada, this particular conference was excessive by anyone's standards.

When GSA's regional administrator directed his staff to make sure the conference was "over the top," he probably didn't envision an $823,000 event featuring four-dollar shrimp appetizers, seven-dollar sushi rolls, forty-four-dollar breakfasts, $6,325 for commemorative coins, $8,130 for yearbooks, and an "angry clown." Held at the "M" Resort Hotel in Henderson, the flashy event resulted in the firing of two senior GSA officials and the resignation of GSA Director Martha Johnson.

The White House denounced the event as a waste of taxpayer dollars and the GSA inspector general said "spending on conference planning was excessive, wasteful and in some cases impermissible." But it was a one-day story and the mainstream media soon returned to the controversial Trayvon Martin case. So much for waste, fraud and abuse at the GSA.

I have a related question: How do most Americans feel about the burgeoning expense of frequent Obama family vacations at a time when so many taxpayers are having trouble putting food on the table? For example the president, his family and a huge entourage of support staff enjoyed an upscale 17-day vacation in Hawaii last December at an estimated cost to the taxpayers of approximately $4 million.

"The total cost (based on what is known) for a 17-day, round-trip vacation to Hawaii for the President and his family, and staff and security, is an estimated $4,113,038," the nonpartisan Hawaii Reporter concluded in an investigative report. This extravagant sum included $3.6 million in travel costs - including $258,000 for the presidential helicopter and $63,000 for Mrs. Obama's early flight to Hawaii - calculated at $12,000 per hour per airplane. Housing costs were "only" $150,000.

And how about those 25 Secret Service agents who accompanied 13-year-old Malia Obama and a dozen of her private school classmates on a spring break trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, last month? We're not supposed to mention presidential children, and I wouldn't if Obama weren't using his daughters to promote his re-election. Question: How much does it cost to send 25 well-paid Secret Service agents to a fancy Mexican resort for a week? You do the math.

According to conservative Judicial Watch, Michelle Obama last year spent more than $500,000 on a six-day "official" trip to Africa accompanied by her two daughters (listed as "senior staff"), her mother, her makeup artist and her hair stylist, among others.

"This trip was as much an opportunity for the Obama family to go on a safari as it was ... to conduct government business," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

And finally, conservative blogger and fellow Appeal columnist Chuck Muth recently discovered that the feds gave a grant to a Las Vegas academic to study the Miss Tibet beauty pageant. This is how our government spends our tax dollars. Enough already!

• Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal's senior political columnist.


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