Not only was GSA trip a waste – it was a boring waste



Taxpayer-funded boondoggles not unusual

Taxpayer-funded boondoggles not unusual

This is it. This is too much.

For years I have been reconciled to the fact that I would never get to party like a rock star. There are sacrifices we all must make in life, and that was mine. I would never get to “throw down” like a “boss.” I would not roll up to the club with my associates and provoke whatever response it is that you are supposed to provoke when you roll up to the club with your associates.

But to realize that the western regional employees of the General Services Administration are having more fun than I am — that is the absolute limit.

On Monday, the chief of the General Services Administration resigned after word got out about a lavish and expensive training conference in Las Vegas that included a mind-reader, a clown and $44 breakfasts for everyone.

The Post reported: “Among the ‘excessive, wasteful and in some cases impermissible’ spending the inspector general documented: $5,600 for three semi-private catered in-room parties and $44 per person daily breakfasts; $75,000 for a ‘team-building’ exercise — the goal was to build a bicycle; $146,000 on catered food and drinks; and $6,325 on commemorative coins in velvet boxes to reward all participants for their work on stimulus projects. The $31,208 ‘networking’ reception featured a $19-per-person artisanal cheese display and $7,000 of sushi. At the conference’s closing-night dinner, employees received ‘yearbooks’ with their pictures, at a cost of $8,130.”

Forget partying like a rock star. I want to party like the GSA.

Still, I have to say: From all the accounts of spending, this sounds like simultaneously the most wasteful, costly and absurd party ever — and one of the least-fun times you could have in Vegas.

They spent $75,000 for a “team-building” exercise in which they attempted to construct a bicycle. I can think of dozens of better things to do in Las Vegas with $75,000 than construct a bicycle as a team-building exercise, and that includes buying every conference attendee a ticket to fly from Vegas to Duluth, Minn. If you are going to waste that many taxpayer dollars, waste them right. See Cirque du Soleil.

They spent $6,325 on commemorative coins in velvet boxes to reward all participants for their work on stimulus projects.

Commemorative coins are like sexually transmitted infections: unpleasant things you have because someone gave them to you. No one actively seeks them out. If someone gave you a million dollars tomorrow, do you know how much of it you would spend on commemorative coins? None. Why? Because a commemorative coin is valueless.

That’s not all that was wrong with this party. A clown? A mind-reader? This sounds like a birthday party I attended at age 6. I don’t remember much. I think I cried a lot.

GSA, if you are going to go to Vegas on the taxpayer’s dime, make it count. Buy a tiger. Have one of those magical evenings no one involved can remember afterward.

Instead, the agency spent $8,130 on yearbooks commemorating the GSA conference. “Aw man, remember that GSA training conference last year when we built a bicycle as a team and each ate $19 worth of artisanal cheeses? Let’s get out that yearbook and refresh our memories!” is a phrase that no one has uttered, ever.

Come on. If you’re going to waste this much money, GSA, do it right. Think how many $16 muffins you could have bought.

Alexandra Petri is a member of The Washington Post’s editorial staff.