That's how much of our hard-earned money has gone to subsidize the spring break-style trips and conferences of the federal government over the last five years. Spending on bureaucracy boondoggles has increased some 70 percent in that time period.
We wouldn't know anything about this binge if Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., hadn't asked. Last summer, the pork-busting chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information and International Security surveyed all federal departments and agencies and directed them to document their conference, meetings and travel expenses since 2000. At a hearing on Tuesday, Sen. Coburn unveiled his findings.
You'll be happy to know that the government junkets your tax dollars have funded include:
-- A Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) trip to the resort town of Los Cabos, Mexico, for a conference on American real estate and urban areas.
-- Another HUD outing to Honolulu -- for the Sacramento, Calif., Home Ownership Fair.
-- A Department of State expedition to Vienna, Austria, to partake in "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and "Train the Trainer" workshops.
-- A Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) jaunt by 236 employees to an AIDS conference in Barcelona, Spain. Price tag: $3.6 million.
-- A total of 59 HHS conferences around the world with delegations of more than 100 -- including over 1,000 attendees to sunny Orlando, Fla. Employed by HHS? You're going to Disney World!
It would be one thing if all this worldwide travel were actually related to the actual agency/department goals and duties of the federal employees packing their bags and riding off into the sunset. But in too many cases, there is little if any connection between the meetings and the mission.
Why are we paying for HUD employees to attend the New York State Governor's Dr. Martin Luther King Symposium? Or to a conference held by the radical, left-wing, open-borders advocacy group, the National Council of La Raza?
Did the Department of Justice really need to dispatch workers to the "Women Are Sacred" conference in sunny Phoenix?
Was it necessary to send a whopping 200 HHS employees to a Netherlands "International Symposium on Night and Shiftwork"? Wouldn't it have saved us all time and money if the HHS researchers traveled to a nearby 7-11 or nursing home instead?
The spendthrift HHS has been among the worst transgressors -- burning through more than $300 million on conferences between 2000-2005. Several of the department's publicly subsidized trips to AIDS conferences have featured free condom distribution to participants, sex- and drug-themed sessions, and in one case, giveaways of a map to area brothels.
Jet-setting bureaucrats do more than waste money on these working vacations. They are also undermining our nation's best interests. The State Department has sent its employees to confabs convened by a soft-on-terrorism outfit, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (whose executive director blamed Israel in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks), as well as to a counterterrorism conference in Saudi Arabia that deliberately excluded Israel and instead welcomed the Islamist Muslim World League -- considered by U.S. counterterrorism officials to be a financial supporter of al Qaeda.
Blowhards in both parties in Washington have pledged to reduce spending and reform business as usual. Yet, Sen. Coburn's attempt to limit conference spending by just one agency -- HUD -- was anonymously stripped from an appropriations bill behind closed doors and unceremoniously killed.
Who did it? Let's have some transparency. Step forward and tell us why.
You want reform? You want smaller government? There's $1,401,104,263 and counting just waiting to be targeted.
Go ahead and make our day: Cut it out!