If government employees can enjoy a stay in a luxury hotel made famous on The Bachelor, then surely Congress could find somewhere to make spending cuts.
In November, a group of federal government employees connected with the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force enjoyed a trip to St. Croix, courtesy of taxpayers. Though no reports of long bar tabs and souvenir receipts have surfaced—as what happened when the General Services Administration held a conference in Las Vegas—a few details have raised eyebrows.
Government employees stayed in the Buccaneer Hotel, a beachfront resort made famous by the television show The Bachelor. At a time of supposedly tight budgets, the task force could have at least proposed a more modest way to hear from regional governors and others about the status of the coral reefs.
Further, the trip itself did nothing directly to improve the environment. Taxpayers can only hope the week of lecturers and public events along with the annual business meeting will eventually produce something in the way of improved environmental quality.
Perhaps no obscenely wasteful spending took place over the week—that much is unclear. But also unclear is why this program exists in the first place. With the task force spread across 11 different federal agencies, it is difficult to understand how much it costs taxpayers and whether it is successful or not. There are many nonprofit organizations, research institutes, universities, clubs, community groups, networking coalitions, and businesses in the Caribbean alone working to improve coral reefs and educate the public. The Coral Reef Alliance lists 10 pages worth of organizations working on coral reef issues in the U.S. With such a clear and committed effort, why are taxpayers footing the bill (the size and effectiveness of which is unclear) for the federal government to join the party?
Even with a national debt of $17 trillion and counting, some in Congress are maneuvering to replace spending cuts from sequestration with even more spending. But stories of wasteful spending cropping up now and then make clear that if the federal government can “afford” such questionable purchases, clearly there is room to cut. The longer Congress waits to budget, the more important cutting wasteful spending and tackling the nation’s debt becomes. The budget conference presents a unique opportunity to do just that.