When politicians’ egos and taxpayer money combine, you’re bound to get a bad result.
Wasting taxpayer money is wrong, whether it’s a billion dollars or a single penny. And so, finding and cutting waste has been a passion of mine since I worked as Missouri’s State Auditor.
I recently found one of the stupidest uses of taxpayer money I’ve ever seen. For years, some politicians in Washington have used taxpayer dollars to buy portraits—of themselves—often to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. A former head of the Department of Agriculture spent $20,000 on a portrait of himself. And not to be outdone, a former Environmental Protection Agency official spent $40,000 on an oil painting of herself.
There are some big egos in Washington, but this really takes the cake.
Any Missourian could tell you this money could be put into roads and bridges across our state, used to help combat Missouri’s opioid epidemic, or strengthen our military or veterans’ services.
That’s why I teamed with Republican Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Deb Fisher of Nebraska to introduce the Bipartisan EGO Act. Our bill, which this week passed out of committee unani-mously, would make it illegal to use taxpayer money for this kind of vanity art project. If top government officials want a portrait of themselves, then they can pay for it themselves.
Eliminating these paintings is not going to save a ton of taxpayer money, but that’s not the point. The point is that that some in Washington get so impressed with themselves, they actually think it’s okay for you to pay to paint a picture of them. And finding waste and eliminating it wherever and however we can needs to be our goal. Not a single Missouri family is made safer, or more economically secure by these paintings, and in my book, that means they need to go.
Missourians have spoken loudly and clearly that they are tired of business as usual in DC. Many things need to change. Ending this type of waste is a good way to start.
Claire McCaskill is Missouri’s U.S. Senator and former Missouri State Auditor.