The Ghost of Snapped Shot

Or, welcome to my low-maintenance heck.

Meet The $209 Million Dollar Chairs

Not gold plated.

Gizmodo ran a story minutes ago looking at the amount of money the Federal Government has spent, according to its Procurement Database, on goofy tech gadgets. Their list is interesting, in that there are some items that are easily justifiable; but naturally, this being the Government, there's plenty waste to be had as well.

Unfortunately, Giz stopped looking into things at tech gadgets, which is fine since that's a tech gadget blog... So I decided to take a quick peek to see if I could find out how much the government spent on the ultimate status symbol, the creme de la creme chair of office luxury -- the $900 Herman Miller Aeron chair.

If you guessed that between 1999 and 2011, the Federal Government spent $209,656,222.03 on the most luxurious office chair in existence, pat yourself on the back.

As the old saying goes, that's $209 million dollars we can't put towards education, whatever liberals mean whenever they say that.

 Tags: Government Waste #DailyFodder


#1 Justin 16-Jun-2011

Can we safely assume the federal govenment did not pay retail for the Herman chair?  Let's assume they got a little over 20% discount.  So $700 per chair.  And can we be generous and say that these government employee have to sit on something and that a quality chair (regardless of comfort) while more expensive up front holds up and has a longer service life then a cheap chair.  Let's safely assume a quality office chair that has the same service life as Herman chair and costs $350.  So the real cost of Herman chair versus alternative is $209 million/2 = $104.5 million.  Now $209 million/$700 = 299,508 chairs.  The service life is 10 years, the additional cost is $350 per Herman chair.  And let's assume an average annual salary of $60,000 or ~$30 per hour across all federal employees. $350 cost/ ~3000 work days chair is used = ~0.12 cents cost per day used.  $0.12/$240 dailly compensation = 0.05% cost per day per employee.

So let me understand your point.  You're pissed because the federal government paid $0.12 cents per day more per employee than it otherwise could have?  And assuming $30 per hour ($.50 per minute, $0.833 per second ) wage that $0.12 cents translates into less than 7 seconds of time.  Correct me if I'm wrong here, I'm just doing the math.  If a federal employee works more than 7 seconds per day because their comfortable in that Herman chair the Fedral Goverment gets a return on their investment.

#2 Brian C. Ledbetter 16-Jun-2011

It's never a safe assumption to think that the Federal government paid under list price for a product. Unfortunately, the database I linked above doesn't list the number of chairs ordered, so I can't really tell you on average how much they paid. Keep in mind that this is the same government that's responsible for the legendary $600 screwdriver, if that'd help put things in perspective.

Add to that the fact that Federal employees are generally compensated far better than their private sector counterparts, despite producing absolutely nothing of tangible value, and I think my point remains the same -- Which is to say, as far as I'm concerned, with what Federal employees get paid, sitting on a pile of rocks should be acceptable! ;)

You an old visitor to the site, or have we met somewhere? I know tons of Justins!


#3 Justin 17-Jun-2011

"Long time listener, first time caller"  No.  We've met before.

Sadly for you, very few of your fellow citizens accept your premise that federal government employees produce nothing of tangible value.  They continue to act as if they gain value from interstate highways, go to federal parks, listen and watch weather reports, make real estate decisions based upon federal flood maps, invest in equipment and RF licenses with confidence of no RF inference,  accept lower yields on debt, equity and financial instruments because the perceived risk is lower on enforcable contracts and rules, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.

Many may hold the sentiment that you engage in a number of logical fallacies which may have the effect of narrowing your blog audience to small group of people with like habits.

#4 Brian C. Ledbetter 17-Jun-2011

Then at least if you've met me, you know how polite I generally am -- Which helps, considering how abrasive my commentary style here can be. ;)

You list a whole slew of innovations, but you seem to be missing the giant assumption that you are making in the process. Think you can figure out what it is? I don't want to spoil the fun by telling you.

(And while I always enjoy acknowledging Snapped Shot's dwindling readership, I am comforted by the fact that this country's generally 50% full of people of similar thought. I can't deny how much I suck at blogging, though, so you definitely got me there.)


PS: Justin from GMU?

#5 Brian C. Ledbetter 17-Jun-2011

Correction: I said "50%" when I meant "roughly 50%." Gallup does call it 43%, to be totally honest -- but that's in line with the general 50/50 split that America has traditionally had between conservative and liberal.

#6 Justin 20-Jun-2011

An essay for your review.


#7 Brian C. Ledbetter 20-Jun-2011

That was a painful read, as it was fairly obviously written by someone who's full of himself. (And given that I'm of that nature myself, I'll just say it takes one to know one.)

To the author's core point about the founder of Libertarianism walking back his libertarian views twenty years later, it happens. Does that mean that all of the arguments he made are somehow invalid?

And to his point that "Too Big To Fail" is a result of these libertarian policies, I'd disagree quite strongly -- given that Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Citibank, and Goldman Sachs were all controlled by ex-Clintonites, were they not? -- and besides which, their financial escapades were explicitly made possible by the Federal government's interventions in the Mortgage market.

Anyway, I'm not exactly sure what this has to do with our discussion, as you've gone from making the bold (and typical) assumption that none of the things you listed would be possible without a strong central government (to rebut: the Uniform Commercial Code is nearly uniform, but it is not Federal law), to assuming somehow that I'm a libertarian. While it could be said that I'm a "libertarian" at the Federal level, that's only because I believe the Federal government should govern strictly under the powers granted to it by the Federal Constitution; in my view, State governments are free to live (and fail) by their own designs.

But enough of my own blathering. I'm sure you want to elaborate on your side of things by now, so I look forward to hearing more!


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