Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cartagena Hookers, GSA and Sugar

From my point of view it is amusing how surprised people seem to be about the scandals in GSA and with the US officials who engaged prostitutes in Cartagena and then refused to pay.    The GSA story is a recurring one.   The procurement arm of the federal government, every once in a while, gets caught peddling influence or buying things for outrageous prices.  (This administration seems to have done those things simultaneously.)  From the stories here the current (and some now former) officials seem to have been particularly corrupt in their soirĂ©e in Las Vegas and they do seem to have taken some bribes - but this is not the first time.   The idiot who formerly ran the agency, Martha Johnson, was bold enough to claim that the "gross misuse of taxpayer dollars" that was described  in an Inspector General's report was actually just something left over from the prior administration.  What would you expect from a senior administration official where the CEO (the President) has constantly claimed that every ill (deficits and slow return to employment) came from George Bush.   The conference that blew more than $800,000 and was described their use of government funds as "excessive, wasteful, and in some cases impermissible."

Then there is the story about a dozen or so Secret Service and military personnel who engaged hookers in Cartagena, where prostitution is legal, and refused to pay.   While that reflects a general callousness toward ethics what bothered me more was the President's remarks where he said conferences like the hemisphere one he and the other officials were spending gave him a chance to hunt out new vacation spots for the first family.  So the purpose of international conferences is to figure out where the first family is going next at our expense?

Now how does sugar come into the equation?   Easy.   Since the start of the Castro regime our government has "protected" us from communist sugar as well as cigars and other commodities.   In reality, the rationale for the tariffs on Cuban products are based on the same principles that the first two issues are based on - when government gets to large a couple of things happen.   First, because there is no price discipline, individuals inside and outside of the government tend to seek "rents" from government.  Second, as government begins to be more powerful, the rule of law (and indeed the standards of ethics in society) begins to diminish.   Ms. Johnson and the deputies who planned their Vegas extravaganza had no clue that funding on party on OPM was not OK.  After all, these "hard working" bureaucrats deserve a junket.  The dozen or so members of the protection detail for the President I am sure were outraged that they actually had to pay for a service.   The sugar growers think nothing of imposing small costs on all of us so they can reap big rewards.   In all cases these kinds of things begin from the idea that the officials or the people who come to government to reset the equation are entitled to being treated just a bit better.   We should not be surprised, but if government were smaller, this would not happen as often.

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