Saturday, May 30, 2009

Just in case the US was feeling left out…

The Wall Street Journal today has a story about US Congressmen creatively using their government allowances: “Lawmakers Bill Taxpayers For TVs, Cameras, Lexus

It’s nice to know that it’s not just the British politicians who are able to creatively game the allowance system of their government. While there are no stories about a Representative using his/her allowance to dredge their moat, the $24,730 Florida Democrat Alcee Hastings expensed for a year-long lease of a Lexus GS450H is considerable. Not as dodgy as Eni Faleomavaega claimed expenses for two $1,473 TVs.

The problem with the story is, of course, that the American lawmakers are amateurs at this. (Or maybe they’re more honest than British MPs?) There’s nothing particularly outrageous (see aforementioned moat-dredging) or shocking. Ok, Faleomavaega bought some TVs – how many offices on Capitol Hill don’t have a TV? CNN or another channel is always playing in the background, I’m sure. (46” is excessive, but maybe the Rep. is blind?)

And the Lexus Hybrid? Well, that’s good for the environment, and $24,730 for a car like that is actually pretty good – according to Lexus’s US website, their purchase price starts at $56,550, which would actually have still fallen within the Congressional individual expense claim allowance of about $1.5million per year (to cover everything from staff salaries, travel, and general office and job expenses).

For us in the UK, bombarded with films and novels about corruption in the US political system, it’s a weird but nice change for the UK to have the more corrupt pols. (Nice, at least, for those few of us who actually like the US, and want to live and work there.)

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