Flushing $200,000 down the drain?
The incoming Republican House leader proposed plans to build female members a new restroom off the House floor, but the project could cost the taxpayers at least $200,000, according to a congressional aide who has seen the cost estimates.... The aide says there is no plumbing in that area of the historical building, which would require special construction that could make it more expensive. Estimates were based on House official's earlier renovation of the men's restroom to make it wheelchair accessible. That upgrade alone cost $126,000.
My first reaction is that they've thrown away a lot more money on less worthy endeavors. After all, they spent $621 million on a new vistors center (which delighted Harry Reid, who declared he'd no longer need to inhale the aroma of sweaty tourists). And in the $800 billion stimulus bill, they couldn't have slipped in a relative pittance to build a ladies' room? A list of ludicrous stimulus plan items includes these doozies:
Researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo received $389,000 to pay 100 residents of Buffalo $45 each to record how much malt liquor they drink and how much pot they smoke each day. Instead of spending nearly $400,000, the U.S. government could have achieved the same goal by having a couple of scientists join a fraternity.
$100,000 in federal stimulus funds were used for a martini bar and a brazilian steakhouse. . .
The Cactus Bug Project at the University Of Florida was allocated $325,394 in stimulus funds to study the mating decisions of cactus bugs. According to the project proposal, one of the questions that will be answered by the study is this: "Whether males with large weapons are more or less attractive to females." . .
A liberal theater in Minnesota named "In the Heart of the Beast" (in reference to a well known quote by communist radical Che Guevara) received $100,000 for socially conscious puppet shows.
In other words, grading on a curve, and considering the chazerai we spend money on, this is one of the more utlilitarian projects Congress might undertake.
There are a couple of semi-serious points here. First, it is human nature, I suppose, to agonize over $200,000, while Congress in a blink spends billions and trillions. The numbers are so large that at some point that they become meaningless. If we spent a fraction of the time considering the merits of an agriculture bill or a transportation bill that costs $300 billion as we do debating a ladies room (how much without the hand drying machines?), we might make some progress on our fiscal situation.
And second, let's talk Davis-Bacon for a moment. The Davis-Bacon Act was passed in 1931 and requires any government contract in excess of $2,000 to pay the "prevailing" (union) wage. Reason magazine recently explained why this is a rip off and discriminatory to boot:
Davis-Bacon is a blatant piece of special-interest, pro-union legislation. It hasn't come cheap for taxpayers. According to research by Suffolk University economists, Davis-Bacon has raised the construction wages on federal projects 22 percent above the market rate.
James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation finds that repealing Davis-Bacon would save taxpayers $11.4 billion in 2010 alone. Simply suspending Davis-Bacon would allow government contractors to hire 160,000 new workers at no additional cost, according to Sherk.
To make matters worse, the Davis-Bacon Act has explicitly racist origins. It was introduced in response to the presence of Southern black construction workers on a Long Island, N.Y.. veterans hospital project. This "cheap" and "bootleg" labor was denounced by Rep. Robert L. Bacon, New York Republican, who introduced the legislation. American Federation of Labor (AFL) president William Green eagerly testified in support of the law before the U.S. Senate, claiming that "colored labor is being brought in to demoralize wage rates."
The Act is discriminatory both in intent and in its application. So if we want to talk about some savings in discretionary spending and do something for equal opportunity (aren't Democrats supposed to be in favor of that too?), we should consider modifying or repealing Davis-Bacon.
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