Other people's money

The most maddening thing about the ongoing Government Services Administration scandal isn't the amount of taxpayer money spent or the fact that the federal agency decided to hold its October 2010 junket at the M Resort in Henderson.

The GSA could have held the event in Chicago, Orlando or Honolulu -- the location is hardly relevant.

No, the most frustrating aspect of this whole mess is the absolutely idiotic expenses incurred.

If you schedule a conference: You can expect some room, catering, logistical and organizational costs, perhaps a tab for a speaker or two. But $180,000 to scout the location? How is that even possible? Catered in-room parties? A $75,000 bicycle-building teamwork exercise?

And then there's $3,200 for Bob Garner, a supposed mind-reader and motivational speaker who specializes in Kreskin-like stunts. "If KPMG or Accenture hired him, it would seem like just a wacky thing," Howard Ross, a Maryland-based management consultant who focuses on leadership, told The Washington Post. "When spending in government is a big issue, the optics change."

No kidding.

Outrage over the $823,000 GSA conference has spawned planned Senate and House hearings. Not that they will amount to anything substantive.

This is what happens when you become accustomed to spending other people's money. The scandal symbolizes the culture that prevails in our capital, where trillion-dollar deficits are now the norm and productive taxpayers are expected to provide an ever-expanding stream of revenue to keep the party roaring, while those who seek to slow the flow are derided as mean-spirited, greedy or selfish.

The GSA controversy is the proverbial tip of the iceberg and should be a lesson for every elected official and bureaucrat operating within the insular beltway. But it won't be.