A watchdog group called The Sunlight Foundation has estimated that the U.S. House of Representatives spent $2 million in tax dollars in the year 2012 for coffee, pastries, bagels and fruit, among other things, served at congressional functions. The money is part of allowances set aside for each representative for entertaining visitors. Although lawmakers say they are cutting back on expenses in other areas, catering companies in Washington, D.C. say they are getting as much business from the House as they have in the past. Both Republicans and Democrats are to blame.
On the Democratic side, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi spent $61,000 and the number 2 Democrat in the House, Steny Hoyer spent $52,000. Among Republicans, Speaker John Boehner spent $64,000, and the biggest spender was Republican Kevin McCarthy of California, whose bill was $94,000, with an additional $4,000 spent for bottled water. McCarthy told ABC News that they had cut out that practice, but reporters noticed the leftovers from the meeting McCarthy had just attended, and were offered bagels by a staffer.
It’s nice to have munchies at meetings, but for the vast majority of the meetings I attended as a teacher, the treats were provided by members of our staff, who took turns providing food and beverages for staff meetings. We spent four evenings and two whole days a year doing parent conferences, and food was provided in the teachers’ lounge so we wouldn’t have to go home to eat between the end of the school day and the first conference. These treats were provided by the PTA.
In times like these, when people are still scrabbling to meet their expenses, when many people are homeless as a result of foreclosures, when many perfectly qualified people are out of work, wouldn’t it be nice if our leaders in Congress decided to practice a little austerity of their own and limit or cut out treats at meetings?