Magazine article Insight on the News

Are We Still Fit to Govern Ourselves?

Magazine article Insight on the News

Are We Still Fit to Govern Ourselves?

Article excerpt

The buzz among political consultants and pollsters is that a vast number of Americans will not bother to vote in November. For that matter, fewer and fewer in recent years have thought it worth the small effort to cast ballots in local and state elections, while at the same time complaints about boneheaded governance are nearing crescendo.

One reason for this dangerous disenchantment is the casualness with which those in power find infuriating ways to spend. For hideous example, there is the gala that the gang at the U.S. Postal Service threw for Marvin T. Runyon earlier this year.

In most shops and offices, when a colleague retires or goes down the street, a collection is taken. Coworkers will kick in a few bucks each. A slice of cake and a glass of punch, and perhaps a gift, will convey the sentiments of the occasion.

When Mr. Runyon packed it in this spring after six years as postmaster general, the board of governors ordered up the cake and punch--to a final tab, we now learn, of $124,396.73. This was not a collection from the mail carriers and clerks. The postal pooh-bahs took it out of the till (you've noticed the price of a stamp is going up shortly).

Though the Postal Service is a semiautonomous corporation, Congress does keep a weather eye on the operations, and we know of the lavish going-away party through Rep. John M. McHugh's Postal Service subcommittee. The New York Republican was disconcerted to learn that the centerpiece of the Runyon farewell an elaborate dinner at Washington's grand Union Station --alone cost $120,300, or nearly three times the initial estimate by the postal governors when they approved the affair.

On what planet have these people been living?

The costs for the festivities are marvelous. The site, grub and amenities cost $75,384.75. Another $21,113 went for invitations and embossed programs illustrated with a stamp from Mr. Runyon's tenure. You can't have a a classy bash without a celebrity, of course. Actor Karl Malden was paid $3,029.28 to be the master of ceremonies (28 cents?) and another $1,850 was spent for engraved envelopes with Mr. Runyon's image thereon. Oh, yes, $5,000 went for a video of the honoree's career to delight the diners.

Included also in the final cost, as reported by the Washington Post, was travel to Washington for the spouses of the postal board of governors and for regional vice presidents and their spouses. To top off the fond farewell, an additional $4,096.73 was laid out for a Capitol Hill reception for Mr. …

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