Saturday, 24 September 2011

News Flash: Politico Are Idiots

$100 toilet seats! Welfare Cadillac queens! $16 muffins!

The conventional wisdom is that anything the government acquires, it acquires at four times the cost and double the time of its competitors in the private sector. This has turned out to be provisionally true at best – it turns out that a lack of transparency and oversight can drive private industry to be inefficient!

For example, KBR, an alternate-universe Fraternity of Evil Mutants and the company better known in its incarnation as Halliburton, had no problems delivering“sailboat fuel” in Iraq (think about it) and collecting payment for their trouble. If you want a particularly infuriating example of private/public collusion and corruption, this 2006 article by Matt Taibbi should fit the bill.

It also turns out that while private industry can be horrifying inefficient, government occasioally – brace yourself – acts in a fiscally reasonable manner. A cottage industry of right-wing think tanks has sprung up to attempt to remove this fact from the public consciousness, but despite its best efforts, even venerable and wise news outlets like the ridiculous, awful web site Politico occasionally look like idiots .One such idiot, Patrick Gavin, writes:

So what would a $16 muffin taste like? 
A Department of Justice inspector general’s audit revealed this week that the agency was spending lavishly on conferences — and the outrageously pricey breakfast treat has become the symbol of that governmental waste.

Ah yes, just the sort of thing to make the rounds at wingnut aggregators like World Net Daily (where it made the front page today). The problem with Gavin's report, and the “$16 muffin” portion of a DOJ audit, is that the facts don't back them up upon even casual inspection. It turns out that "audits reveal..." actually means "we repeat without checking that..." 

TPM Muckracker contributer Ryan J. Reilly reports:

"Under a complete accounting of the services provided for the Executive Office for Immigration Review conference, it is clear that the muffins did not cost $16," DOJ spokeswoman Gina Talamona said in a statement. 
"The abbreviated banquet checks did not reflect all of the food and services provided," Talamona said in an email to reporters. "The package consisted of food, beverages, staff services and function space, including a 450-seat ballroom and more than a dozen workshop and breakout rooms each of the five days of the conference."

So it turns out another right-wing chestnut – the $16 muffin – is rotten. You can add that to debunked-but-still-oft-cited golden oldies like “Union factory workers make $72/hr” and “Barack Obama can't be President because he's secretly ineligible, no really guys, stop laughing.”

Of course, Politico's ongoing quest to “win the morning” by earning a juicy front page link on the Drudge Report (a more venerable news source than WND but still insane) ensures that no pesky facts will get in the way of a juicy, outrage-tickling story about government waste. The "liberal media" strikes again!

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