— Item: The inspector general for the Environmental Protection Agency reported last week that contract workers at a huge EPA warehouse outside Washington, D.C., carved out “unauthorized and hidden personal spaces” furnished with big-screen TV’s, refrigerators and nap-worthy couches. Man caves, in other words. The EPA leased the warehouse from another government agency for $750,000 a year and has paid the contractor hired to maintain it more than $5 million since 2007. And what did the EPA get for its money? “Deplorable conditions ...corrosion, vermin feces, mold and other problems,” said the IG. But the man caves were nice.
— Item: The U.S. Justice Department spent more than $58 million last year alone flying DOJ employees to conferences all over the world, according to an IG report made public this week. In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder decrying the “jet-set culture,” Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma said the DOJ, spent almost $500,000 to send 30 employees to a conference in Indonesia and $200,000 to send just four employees to a Senegal seminar and also paid $100,000 for a Northern Mariana Islands summit without bothering to send any employee.
In the grand scheme of multi-trillion-dollar federal spending, some might dismiss these abuses as insignificant.
They are not.
Like the scandals over the IRS’ harassment of conservative groups and political donors, like the Benghazi coverup, like the once secret National Security Agency’s data-mining operation, Washington’s profligate and careless spending goes to the heart of the relationship between citizens and their government.
All of these scandals raise fundamental questions of trust.
Can we trust federal officials and functionaries to do the right thing, to look out for our interests rather than their own?
Unfortunately and sadly, the answer seems to be no.
Once they were considered our public servants and considered themselves as such. Too many now see themselves as our masters and want to live like lords at our expense.