We spend far too much time here talking about government waste and abuse, as well as the generally failed efforts to curb same. The government wastes so much money right under your noses that it must seem some days as if it’s just not worth fighting it anymore. There’s just nothing to be done.
Or is there?
A report at Government Executive magazine brings hope to the conservative world with the tale of a five year battle at the Government Accountability Office to curb the big spending ways of our public servants. And in a rare moment of hope for the empire, the good guys won.
In a decision that was five years in the making, government auditors have ruled that federal employees are on their own when it comes to disposable cups, plates and cutlery.
Upon reconsideration of a decision originally released in December, the Government Accountability Office determined appropriated funds at the National Weather Service “are not available to purchase such items since they constitute personal expenses of employees.” The NWS Employee Organization, which represents the agency’s workforce, has fought NWS management since 2009 to provide the eating accessories on the agency’s dime.
In September 2009, the Commerce Department and NWSEO signed a memorandum of understanding that the government would supply workers with eating utensils. Things went swimmingly until 2013, when Commerce announced it could no longer afford the perk. The union, however, refused to give up so easily.
That’s right, sports fans. The ruling went our way and victory is in hand. There will be no more free plastic forks, spoons, knives, cups or paper plates for the employees at… the National Weather Service. Those greedy lunch munchers will have to pay for their own cutlery from here on out.
Of course, to reach this point involved a five year court battle. Even when the government finally decided to not pay for them, the public workers union covering this group had to protest. And they fought it tooth and claw. For five years.
The union challenged GAO’s initial decision on the grounds the dispute did not fall under the agency’s purview, but GAO said that argument reflected a “fundamental misunderstanding” of its statutory responsibility. GAO also said appropriations issues were “not within FLRA’s area of expertise” and therefore the authority should not weigh in on the decision.
I know what you’re thinking. So what, Jazz? We’re talking about, at most, a hundred dollars worth of disposable dishware over the course of the year. The annual budget for the National Weather Service is about $750M. Yes, that’s true. But I think you’re missing the larger picture here. What we’re talking about is more than a few bags of kegger cups. This is precedent. If you can make the workers bring their own paper plates at the NWS, you can do it at the EPA. And the Department of the interior. It could spread like wildfire until there’s nary a taxpayer funded spork to be seen from coast to coast. And we won’t stop there. If they have to pay for their own plastic spoons, how about toothpicks? And Saran Wrap to cover the leftovers after lunch?
Do you have any idea how many coffee filters these greedy bastages must be going through every year? We’re on the verge of a revolution here, folks. And if the GAO can win this battle in only five years we can probably get the coffee filters off our tax bill by the end of the century. The savings could add up to… well, easily thousands of dollars. It’s a glorious day, citizens. Hats off to the GAO!