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Cut Government Spending … But Not in My Office

How much should office furniture cost? For most of us, burlap cubicles and second-hand desk chairs more than suffice. In fact, if you factor in discounts for buying in bulk, many companies probably only spend a few hundred dollars per person on office furniture. Proof once again that private corporations and public government are two very, very different things.

For example, the city of Naples, Florida, recently allocated $10,000 to replace furniture in the Mayor’s office. It seems the outgoing mayor was taking his furniture with him, so they’d have to start from scratch. Still, ten grand seems like a lot to spend on a desk and a couple of chairs. This squib posits the idea that the line item is a plant — a chance to cut expenses at the last minute and look like a hero of frugality.

Ten thousand seems like a lot to us, but when it comes to spending money on office decor, the mayor of Naples is an amateur. At least when you compare that $10,000 to the $60,000 many Congressmen spend renovating their offices.

The exact amount GOP Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry spent renovating his office is unknown, but it might reach $60,000, according to a House aide. McHenry is an outspoken critic of President Obama and the Democrats’ approach to spending and debt.

A spokesperson for McHenry described the renovations as “nothing new,” but Jay Parmley, executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party, had a different take.

“I think he missed his opportunity to back up his words, to put his money where his mouth is,” said Parmley. “He should have and could have simply rejected the opportunity to have his office renovated, and I think it’s a question of leadership.”

American politicians aren’t the only culprits. Canadian Communities and Cultural Affairs Minister Carolyn Bertram of Prince Edward Island, spent $225,000 (in Canadian dollars) in 2009 to renovate her offices. Her reasoning? Her staff had been split into two spaces and needed to be united in one office. By itself, that would be persuasive reasoning, but it didn’t fully explain the degree of the expense. For example, it’s hard to figure out how an interior decorator fits into those needs.

So the next time you need to do a little renovating, you can pride yourself on your frugality. After all, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever spend tens of thousands of dollars buying a few desks and chairs.


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