Human Events Blog

Enjoy the $20k portraits you bought the ruling class for Christmas

It’s an old chestnut among “climate change” skeptics that we’ll start taking the complaints of the cult seriously when its high priests start living as if they really believe there’s a crisis.  Global warming pope Al Gore has a carbon footprint that would crush a Third World nation.  Climate-change sultans fly into lavishly catered eco-conferences on luxury private jets.  Hollywood stars lecture the rest of us about using too much energy while they live in mansions and tool around in limousines.

In a similar vein, the earls and barons of Washington certainly don’t live as if they believe there is a “budget crisis,” or any need for even the most cursory fiscal restraint.  The difference, of course, is that the coming fiscal collapse of Washington is very real, unlike “global warming,” and can be easily forecast with a simple spreadsheet, unlike the weather.  Ironically, many of the people who believe passionately in the fake crisis of global warming stubbornly refuse to accept the very real federal debt crisis.  That’s because the fake crisis is an excuse for making government larger, while dealing with the real crisis would require the unprecedented step of making it smaller.

The Washington Times reports on the lavish expense of memorializing our bureaucratic royalty:

It’s not always easy to tell who’s coming or going as the Obama administration starts its second term, but multiple agencies have quietly commissioned artists to paint official portraits of Cabinet secretaries and other top appointees — an expenditure often seen when officials are on the way out the door or already gone.

The Environmental Protection Agency spent nearly $40,000 on a portrait of Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, while a painting of Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley will cost $41,200, according to federal purchasing records. The price tag for a 3-by-4-foot oil portrait of Agriculture Department Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack: $22,500.

All told, the government has paid out at least $180,000 for official portraits since last year, according to a review by The Washington Times of spending records at federal agencies and military offices across government.

As the Times points out, this is nothing new; government agencies have been immortalizing our ruling class in this fashion forever.  Supposedly the commissioning of such splendid portraits is a sign that the overpaid, over-empowered bureaucrat in question might be on his or her way out.  I guess it would look bad if they immediately ordered their majestic imperial portraits immediately upon arrival.

A portrait consultant interviewed by the Times gushed that these paintings are “done for future generations to see how we live now, and it’s really a tribute as well as part of a person’s legacy.”  What, the reduced lifestyles our profligate spending and bloated government will impose upon our children aren’t legacy enough?  Our recently re-elected President is dropping tens of thousands of dollars of fresh debt upon their heads every year.  They’ll remember “how we live now” just fine, without trudging through some dusty gallery of bureaucratic titans.  Part of the problem is that “how we live now” will only be a memory for them.  It is beyond absurd that our beyond-broke government is paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to lionize the people who made our future so much smaller.

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