Monday, January 19, 2009

Your Tax Dollars At Work

If this isn't the ultimate "fuck you" to the average US citizen I don't know what is:

Behind every great man or woman in Washington there is a great painting. As the Bush presidency draws to a close, portrait artists can expect a surge in business from Cabinet secretaries and other elite political appointees who want to preserve their legacies -- and their images -- for posterity.

The Commerce Department, for instance, recently requested artists' bids to paint a likeness of Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez, who has served since early 2005. The contract pays up to $35,000, and Gutierrez gets to select the winning painter, said Rick Dubik, the department's director of administration.

The Coast Guard in August awarded a $12,000 contract for a portrait of Adm. Thad W. Allen, a sharp drop from the $23,500 it spent in 2005 for a likeness of Allen's predecessor as commandant, Adm. Thomas H. Collins. "We have a very strong sense of history and this is a critical part of it, having that formal tie to the past," said Coast Guard spokeswoman Angela Hirsch.

But investing taxpayer money in the time-honored art of official portraiture has become increasingly controversial. In a throwback to the Jimmy Carter era, some fiscal watchdogs and government scholars suggest that high-quality photographs would be a more cost-efficient way to honor departing dignitaries, especially because most portraits are largely inaccessible to the public.

...At the upper end of the scale, the Defense Department awaits the expected February completion of a $46,790 portrait of controversial former secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. It will grace a Pentagon hallway lined with portraits of his predecessors, as well as one from Rumsfeld's first stint as defense secretary from 1975 to 1977, officials said.
I'm still all for official presidential portraits: those guys are important enough to warrant a portrait and personally I think the tradition is kind of cool. What I have a problem with is asshole failures like Rumsfeld and others getting their own portrait at almost fifty thousand dollars a pop on our dime. And again, this isn't a problem of just one party, it's endemic to the system. These guys truly live in another world from the one you and I inhabit.


Van Zan said...

I know some kids who could do a fine portrait of Rumsfeld and it'd be really nice with a big yellow sun in the top corner and everything... and they'd do it for free. Heck I'd prefer that kind of pic to some stiff painting anyhow.
I'll be annoyed if Rumsfeld gets a carrier or some other ship named after him, but he might.

Anonymous said...

What are your opinions on the spending towards the inauguration and its associated balls/parties/concerts/etc? I know it's not all tax dollars, but is there something better we could do with $100M? I'm seriously asking.

JBW said...

Most definitely, one L. All I care about is the swearing in ceremony and the walk to the White House. Everything else involved is just extraneous celebration (you might have noticed that I haven't posted anything about the various balls and parties associated with the event; it's because I just don't care).

I understand the need for security and there should be a celebration of this historic event but yes, I also think that it's a waste of millions of dollars that could be used for any of dozens of more important things right now.

As I've said before, I don't care about his dog or where his daughters are going to school or what Michelle is going to wear to the parties, I'm ready for the man to get down to some serious governing. That's why I voted for him and it's why I've been such an outspoken proponent of his for all these months. Everything else is just expensive fluff.

Van Zan said...

I can think of a hundred different things I'd rather the money went to. Rather than ask ourselves "is the bill for this too big?" perhaps we should ask of ourselves "why do we need this at all?". Other democratic countries don't do this. Can't there just be a quiet ceremony to mark transfer of authority... and thus day one begins?

JBW said...

For that to happen Van Zan would require both humility and fiscal responsibility from those who would ask to lead us and I'm afraid that the big names in both major parties (and I include Obama in this criticism, to a somewhat lesser extent at this point) are very much lacking in one or both of these qualities.

Van Zan said...

This is an obvious point but it goes unspoken: It might serve not as an ego-inflater (they already have egos the size of Mars), but some kind of reminder of the magnitude of the trust being put into their hands.
"Mr President, these our lives at stake here. What you do will define our times. 100 million dollars here says: Don't screw it up! Amen."
Of course we could all say that for a tad less than that kind of money but..."