Archive for December 23rd, 2009

In the good old days, members of Congress had very little staff, sometimes just one professional aide and one administrative person. Today, Capitol Hill has become a bloated bureaucracy with the average politician having a couple of dozen aides. That’s bad news, and it probably contributes to misguided policy since many of those staffers exist to help redistribute other people’s money to campaign contributors and other political supporters. But to add insult to injury, some polticians get to pad their payrolls and subsidize their expenses even after they leave office. The Politico reports that the former Speaker of the House is squandering $40,000 of our money every month, even though he is a highly-paid lobbyist:

U.S. taxpayers are spending more than $40,000 per month on office space, staff, cell phones and a leased SUV for former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, even as he works as a lobbyist for private corporations and foreign governments. …his spokesman, Brad Hahn, said the former 11-term congressman is in full compliance with rules covering how the federal funds are spent. Hahn said Hastert’s lobbying work “is completely separate [from the office of the former speaker], and he keeps them completely separate.” The federal government pays $6,300 per month to rent an office for Hastert and his staff in Yorkville, Ill. Hahn conceded that Hastert has no other office set aside for lobbying work in Illinois but said that the former speaker travels to Washington frequently for work. In addition to the office, the government pays the salaries of three of Hastert’s assistants in his Illinois office — each more than $100,000 in 2008. Bryan Hardin, Hastert’s administrative assistant (the title often used by a chief of staff in a congressional office) earned $138,000. …Taxpayers also make the lease payments on a 2008 GMC Yukon and pay for a satellite TV subscription, cell phones, laptops and other expenses. …Other expenditures include $745 for a printer and about $620 to transport a clock. …Hastert is authorized to spend as much as $840,000 annually to run his office but has not used all the money made available to him by Congress. “He’s worked on a nonpaid basis, but as a former speaker, [Hastert] helped out with the Chicago Olympic bid, Advance Illinois [an education program] and Illinois Works,” a jobs program, Hahn added.

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Isn’t it nice to know that our tax dollars were used for a study showing that – gasp! – that people are not totally honest when using online dating sites. Maybe the next taxpayer-financed study can investigate whether it’s hotter at the equator. The Washington Post reports on this boondoggle (though only about the results, of course, not about the waste of taxpayer money):

It won’t surprise anyone who’s tried online dating to learn that eight out of 10 people lie somewhere in their profiles, according to a series of studies funded in part by the National Science Foundation. And it didn’t surprise Jeffrey T. Hancock, a communications professor at Cornell University who conducted the research over the last few years and explained the findings in a NSF webcast earlier this month. Fabrications “have been driving human behavior for millennia,” Hancock says in a phone interview. “It’s new bottles, in a way, but very old wine.”

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For those of you who can’t find zhu zhu pets, here’s an option sure to bring a smile – a long-sleeved t-shirt honoring the Secretary of the Treasury. Maybe if you’ve been very good all year long, Santa will bring you a special Tim “Turbotax” Geithner free pass, allowing you to cheat on your taxes and get away with no penalties once you’re caught!

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Some students at King’s College in NYC interviewed me as part of a school project. I appear around 1:00 and again at 4:45 in their video, discussing the pro-growth principles of tax reform. I also comment on the moral benfits of a flat tax.

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