Friday, September 23, 2011


Presumably you've heard of the report from the Justice Department's Inspector General about excessive spending for food, travel and entertainment.  If not you certainly will; in these times when government austerity is all the rage, the Rebuplicans are sure to trumpet this as another scandalous example of Democratic excess.

One of the items that has garnered the most attention is the IG's allegation that the Department paid $16 apiece for muffins at the Capital Hilton, in DC.  My first reaction:  I want the recipe!

Whoa.  Maybe the report is wrong.  Hilton International says that the inspectors mis-read its invoices, and AP says that the report--while allocating $4,200 for the muffins--also noted 15 gallons of "complimentary" coffee, 30 gallons of "complimentary" ice tea (should it be "ice tea" or "iced tea?") and 200 pieces of "free" fruit.  Your Eco 101 professor will tell you that there's nothing "complimentary" or "free" in a case like this.  

More significantly, according to the AP the cost per-person for the conference in question was $14.74, exactly 2 cents over what the Department allowed.  

I don't know if Hilton is telling the truth, or if the AP report is accurate, although my own experience with events suggests that paying less than $15 per person at a decent hotel is one hell of a bargain.  In any event, this is a reminder that it's always a good idea to look behind the headlines.  

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