In the next few days, the Obama Administration will cancel self-guided tours of the White House. The cancellation comes in the wake of the White House having to trim around $600,000 from its annual budget. If anyone on the West Coast was planning a trip to DC next week, perhaps they can instead snag a seat at one of two wine tastings, sponsored by the Agriculture Department. Spending cuts for thee, but not for me is the Obama Administration’s approach to the sequester.
Next week, the USDA is sponsoring a California Small Farm Conference, which will featuring tasting receptions of regional vineyards and breweries. Next month, the agency is sponsoring the Priester National Extension Health Conference in Oregon. That event will also feature a wine tasting from local vineyards.
On Tuesday, OK Sen. Tom Coburn urged Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack to cancel the USDA’s sponsorship of these events. The federal government spent at least $340 million on conferences last year. When the White House has to cancel self-guided tours in response to a $600k budget cut, every department in government should be carefully scrutinizing their budgets.
I’m not unreasonable. I can concede that there is sometimes a benefit in government employees meeting face-to-face at a conference. In a time of budget austerity, however, these conferences should take place at budget, airport hotels. Until the White House reopens to the public, wine flights and passed-trays of canapes are out of place.