You probably heard about the report because the head of the agency involved, the General Services Administration, fired her top deputies, then quit Monday just before it became public. Case closed? Perhaps, but a scandal is a terrible thing to waste. This one is a mini-case study in the argument for shrinking government.

The hot button isn’t so much the total tab — $823,000, which is a pittance in an era of trillion-dollar deficits and $500 million grants to politically connected solar companies.

The outrage lies in the casualness with which 300 employees took their fellow citizens to the cleaners. Bosses knew and approved, with one saying the conference should be “over the top.” It certainly was. They spent months planning, with hardly a peep of dissent. If nothing else, the incident reveals the banality of chiseling. 

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The workers traveled, ate, slept and had cocktail receptions where they paid $4 for each shrimp. They tipped 22 percent and gave themselves awards and mementos. Some took family members. It was essentially a week’s vacation that they called "work" at a Las Vegas resort.

They cut corners on the same purchasing rules they demand of other federal agencies. They hid costs and made secret deals with the hotel. They used stimulus money to celebrate their use of stimulus money. They were entertained by clowns — and behaved like clowns. They hired a mind reader, yet nobody saw the fallout coming.

[summary]

You probably heard about the report because the head of the agency involved, the General Services Administration, fired her top deputies, then quit Monday just before it became public. Case closed? Perhaps, but a scandal is a terrible thing to waste. This one is a mini-case study in the argument for shrinking government.

The hot button isn’t so much the total tab — $823,000, which is a pittance in an era of trillion-dollar deficits and $500 million grants to politically connected solar companies.

The outrage lies in the casualness with which 300 employees took their fellow citizens to the cleaners. Bosses knew and approved, with one saying the conference should be “over the top.” It certainly was. They spent months planning, with hardly a peep of dissent. If nothing else, the incident reveals the banality of chiseling.

The workers traveled, ate, slept and had cocktail receptions where they paid $4 for each shrimp. They tipped 22 percent and gave themselves awards and mementos. Some took family members. It was essentially a week’s vacation that they called "work" at a Las Vegas resort.

They cut corners on the same purchasing rules they demand of other federal agencies. They hid costs and made secret deals with the hotel. They used stimulus money to celebrate their use of stimulus money. They were entertained by clowns — and behaved like clowns. They hired a mind reader, yet nobody saw the fallout coming.