Thursday, September 22, 2011

I've just gotta rant about this!

I just saw another of those idiotic news items where they take a common every day item and claim that the government has paid an exorbitant price for it. This one is for muffins.

Muffins they claim the government paid $16 for.

Yeah, right. Show me the invoice, and I'll show you an invoice that hasn't had the conference overhead costs itemized - which, of course, are loaded into the price of the items purchased. Resulting, naturally, in $16 muffins and more then likely $5 pads of butter. Stupid contractor and his crazy invoicing practices.

I'll tell you about another famous item. Remember Senator Idiot, oh, sorry, Proxmire and his Golden Fleece Awards? Remember the Senate Aide waving that toilet seat around while the good Senator claimed that it cost $600?

Well, I took a class in government purchasing some twenty years ago, and the guy that taught it had worked in the DOD purchasing office that bought that item.

It wasn't a toilet seat, it was a toilet COVER - for the B-1 bomber! It seems that the B-1 was designed to bomb the Soviet Union, a round trip of some number of hours of over twelve or so - so they built in a toilet for the pilots to do what comes naturally.

Since we never bombed the USSR, those toilets rarely got used for their intended purpose, since the B-1's rarely made long distance trips. But the pilots and air crews had to keep up their monthly flight hours to maintain their flight ratings, so they often made overnight trips to airfields across the country, therefor the need for luggage. Since the B-1 wasn't designed for stopping off in Moscow for a friendly visit, there had been no accommodations for luggage built into the aircraft.

So, the aircrews would throw the luggage into the toilet and shut the door. In the inevitable flight acrobatics, sometimes the toilet cover got cracked. Obviously, the cover would't keep the nasty stuff inside if it were cracked, so they had to be replaced.

Eventually, the replacements purchased under the original contract ran out and the Air Force had to buy more. Because they were only buying enough replacements for a fleet of 50 aircraft, the costs had to be absorbed somehow, so each unit cost $600, which included a redesign to prevent the replacements from cracking in the future, as well as the inevitable overhead costs.

Of course, none of this made a good soundbite, so Proxmire didn't tell you that, now did he? It wouldn't have been sexy enough a story about government overspending.

And so it is every daggone time someone wants to smack the government around for its spending. They aren't LYING - not directly, since the costs are close enough - but they don't tell you the whole story, either.

Now, I won't try to tell you - in a town that is almost overburdened with US Government Purchasing Agents, Contracting Officers and the people they buy from - that the government doesn't pay too much for some things, nor spend lots of money where it isn't needed. There would be too many people who would deservedly call me a liar, and be able to back it up with facts.

But, just as certain is the fact that this means that the opponents of too much government spending don't have to overreach to find examples of true overspending - like aircraft that the Air Force doesn't want nor need.

They don't have to dig for $16 muffins to prove their point!

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