Sequestermania: White House calligraphers making $277,000 as WH public tours are suspended

O’s staff had to realize that suspending the tours would lead to endless embarrassing scrutiny of this sort, right? It’s an engraved invitation to point out the myriad ways in which the feds are wasting money. Even as a cheap “Fireman First” ploy to make the public fret about budget cuts, it’s so much more trouble than it’s worth.

Second look at spending a few grand on a calligraphy machine instead?

With the White House closing its doors to public tour groups in order to save money for the sequester, it’s worth remembering some of the other costs the White House incurs annually.

Like the “Chief Calligrapher,” Patricia A. Blair, who has an annual salary of $96,725, and her two deputies, Debra S. Brown, who gets paid $85,953 per year, and Richard T. Muffler, who gets paid $94,372 every year.

In all, the White House appears to employ 3 calligraphers for a yearly total of $277,050.

Tom Coburn has a few ideas too on where to find the money for those White House tours. Or better yet, for food inspectors who’ve been furloughed:

In a letter earlier this week, Coburn asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to put the kibosh on attendance at a pair of West Coast conferences that include wine and food tastings.

“While these conferences may be fun, interesting and even educational getaways for department employees, food inspecting rather than food tasting should be USDA’s priority at this time,” Coburn wrote in that letter.

According to his calculations, if the Agriculture Department simply stopped hiring new employees for a little while, they’d save enough to end the furloughs for 52 current employees per each postponed hire.

Coburn, incidentally, is one of Obama’s guests tonight at the big White House dinner for select Republican senators in which O will try to convince GOP backbenchers to do … something. It’s not clear what yet; probably he just wants the news to trickle out in order to show voters that he’s working hard in a bipartisan way to end the sequester. (Presumably for the same reason, McConnell invited him to address the Senate GOP caucus next week.) Whether he would have done that anyway or whether he’s doing it now because his polls are starting to slip is an interesting question. The White House plan on the sequester was for O to hold a few campaign-ish events blaming the GOP, trust that the party’s already poor approval ratings would start to collapse, and then wait for Boehner and McConnell to cave. Hasn’t happened that way. Obama’s approval ratings are down too and CBS finds just a five-point spread between the GOP and Obama on which side the public blames most for the sequester. Even his friends in the media can’t help noticing the outright lies and embarrassing exaggerations being told about the effects of the cuts. The One miscalculated and now he’s going to try to undo some damage over dinner, either as a PR ploy to show the public that he’s serious about resolving this or as a bona fide gesture to Republicans to try to get a deal done here before it does him any more damage. Can’t wait to hear John McCain’s and Lindsey Graham’s report on the festivities tomorrow.

Via Politico, I’ll leave it to Boehner to pose your exit question.