Senate Incapable of Running its Own Restaurant

I came across this on Freedomain Radio, this stuff is simply hilarious:

Senate Votes To Privatize Its Failing Restaurants:

Year after year, decade upon decade, the U.S. Senate’s network of restaurants has lost staggering amounts of money — more than $18 million since 1993, according to one report, and an estimated $2 million this year alone, according to another.

The financial condition of the world’s most exclusive dining hall and its affiliated Capitol Hill restaurants, cafeterias and coffee shops has become so dire that, without a $250,000 subsidy from taxpayers, the Senate won’t make payroll next month.

The embarrassment of the Senate food service struggling like some neighborhood pizza joint has quietly sparked change previously unthinkable for Democrats. Last week, in a late-night voice vote, the Senate agreed to privatize the operation of its food service, a decision that would, for the first time, put it under the control of a contractor and all but guarantee lower wages and benefits for the outfit’s new hires.

The House is expected to agree — its food service operation has been in private hands since the 1980s — and President Bush’s signature on the bill would officially end a seven-month Democratic feud and more than four decades of taxpayer bailouts.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Rules and Administrations Committee, which oversees the operation of the Senate, said she had no choice.

“It’s cratering,” she said of the restaurant system. “Candidly, I don’t think the taxpayers should be subsidizing something that doesn’t need to be. There are parts of government that can be run like a business and should be run like businesses.”

In a letter to colleagues, Feinstein said that the Government Accountability Office found that “financially breaking even has not been the objective of the current management due to an expectation that the restaurants will operate at a deficit annually.”

But Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), speaking for the group of senators who opposed privatizing the restaurants, said that “you cannot stand on the Senate floor and condemn the privatization of workers, and then turn around and privatize the workers here in the Senate and leave them out on their own.”

The Senate Restaurants, as the food service network is known, has a range of offerings, from the ornate Senate Dining Room on the first floor of the Capitol, where senators and their guests are served by staffers wearing jackets and ties, to the huge cafeteria in the Dirksen Building and various coffee shops throughout the Senate complex.

All told, they bring in more than $10 million a year in food sales but have turned a profit in just seven of their 44 years in business, according to the GAO.

In a masterful bit of understatement, Feinstein blamed “noticeably subpar” food and service. Foot traffic bears that out. Come lunchtime, many Senate staffers trudge across the Capitol and down into the basement cafeteria on the House side. On Wednesdays, the lines can be 30 or 40 people long.

House staffers almost never cross the Capitol to eat in the Senate cafeterias.

“It’s so bad that the Senate hasn’t yet figured out that House ‘Taco Salad Wednesday’ trumps any type of entree they have to offer,” said Ron Bonjean, a former press secretary to both the House speaker and the Senate Republican leader.

“Those who think the House and Senate don’t talk enough clearly haven’t been in the Longworth cafeteria on the House side at lunchtime recently. Senate staffers have been flocking there for better food, more options, and you get some exercise to boot,” said Brian Walsh, spokesman for Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.),who frequently dines on the other side of the Capitol.

In the past 10 years, only 20 new items have been added to the Senate menus. So rare are new entrees that last year’s arrival of daily fresh-made sushi was treated in some senatorial quarters as if a new Nobu had opened in the Capitol dining room.

Even revenue in the once-profitable catering division has been decimated, as senators have increasingly sought waivers to bring in outside food for special events with constituents and private groups.

Operation of the House cafeterias was privatized in the 1980s by a Democratic-controlled Congress. Restaurant Associates of New York, the current House contractor, would take over the Senate facilities this fall. The company wins high praise from most staffers and lawmakers, who say they are pleased with the wide variety of new items offered every few months.

Most important to Feinstein, Restaurant Associates turns a substantial profit — paying $1.2 million in commissions to the House since 2003. Company officials did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

The rules committee began exploring its outsourcing options in 2005, when Republicans controlled the chamber. When Democrats took power last year, Feinstein ordered several studies, including hiring a consultant to examine management practices, before deciding privatization was the only possibility.

In a closed-door meeting with Democrats in November, she was practically heckled by her peers for suggesting it, senators and aides said.

“I know what happens with privatization. Workers lose jobs, and the next generation of workers make less in wages. These are some of the lowest-paid workers in our country, and I want to help them,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a staunch labor union ally, said recently. The wages of the approximately 100 Senate food service workers average $37,000 annually.

Feinstein made another presentation May 7, warning senators that if they did not agree to turn over the operation to a private contractor, prices would be increased 25 percent across the board.

Eventually, Democrats agreed to pass legislation that includes guarantees for those who go to work for Restaurant Associates. They would retain their current salaries and federal health and pension benefits. Employees who choose to leave instead would receive buyout packages of as much as $25,000 — paid by the Senate. Half the current employees are likely to take that deal.

New employees, however, will not receive federal benefits, though they will be allowed to unionize.

By one estimate, Restaurant Associates would turn a large profit within three years and would begin paying about $800,000 annually in commissions to the Senate.

In the final days of negotiations, Feinstein rolled her eyes and took a deep breath before explaining the ordeal that the Senate Restaurants had become for her.

“It’s clearly not the sort of thing that I ran for the Senate to do,” she said. “But somebody has to do it.”

You see, since these people are completely incapable of running a single restaurant in a building where they enjoy a complete monopoly and are virtually shielded from any competition, we deem it a good idea to turn over to them the mundane tasks of managing 700 military bases across the globe, overseeing an immensely complex and derivatives laden financial system, running some of the largest car manufacturers, insurers, and banks of the country, and managing a gigantic nationwide health care and public schooling system that affects 300 million people in one way or another.

Keep that in mind whenever someone gives you a speech on how essential government is to the provision of service X. (Replace X with whatever that person makes up at that time.)

It’s simply funny … :)

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Massachusetts Senate Race – Third Harbinger of Massive Political Retaliation

Massachusetts voters have decided, Democrats are losing their filibuster proof majority, Republican Scott Brown will be filling Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat:

Republican Scott Brown won a major upset victory in Tuesday’s special election for the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by liberal Democrat Ted Kennedy.

With 89 percent of the results counted, Brown had 52 percent of the vote to 47 percent for Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate, according to the the National Election Pool, a consortium of media organizations including CNN. Independent candidate Joseph Kennedy, a libertarian who is not related to the Kennedy political family of Massachusetts, had 1 percent.

Brown’s victory made real the once unthinkable prospect of a Republican filling the seat held by Kennedy, known as the liberal lion, for almost 47 years until his death from brain cancer in August.

Voters across Massachusetts braved winter cold and snow for an election with high stakes — the domestic agenda of President Obama, including his priority of health care reform.

Brown’s victory strips Democrats of the 60-seat Senate supermajority needed to overcome GOP filibusters against future Senate action on a broad range of White House priorities. Senate Democrats needed all 60 votes in their caucus to pass the health care bill, and the loss of one seat imperils generating that support again for a compromise measure worked out with the House.

In a subdued concession speech, Coakley said she expected a tough assessment of her loss and lots of “Wednesday-morning quarterbacking” after losing a seat held by Democrats for more than 50 years

Democrats are going to scramble now to push through the current health care bill before the new Senate seat will be filled. It will be interesting to watch.

Barack Obama apparently expressed frustration about the results:

Obama has been both “surprised and frustrated” by the race, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.

Obama and former President Bill Clinton hit the campaign trail over the past three days in an attempt to save Coakley’s campaign, which observers say was hampered by complacency and missteps.

Obama crushed Sen. John McCain in Massachusetts in 2008, beating the GOP presidential nominee by 26 points.

“If you were fired up in the last election, I need you more fired up in this election,” Obama urged a crowd at a Coakley campaign rally on Sunday.

Vicki Kennedy, the late senator’s widow, called on state Democrats to turn out to save her husband’s legacy.

“We need your help. We need your support. We need you to get out there and vote on Tuesday,” Kennedy said. “We need you to bring your neighbors. We need you to bring your friends.”

I usually don’t really care all that much one way or another. I am not a Republocrat. I am happy that the government’s ability to act has been curbed a little more through the Dem’s loss of a filibuster proof majority.

The fact that a major blow to the Kennedy dynasty and its followers has been struck, too, gives me a tiny little boost … because I don’t care much for dynasties.

And I can appreciate the fact that there are some things that I can agree on with Brown:

  • Brown’s views are in the libertarian mold, which he describes as “fiscally conservative and socially conscious.”
  • Brown opposes a proposed multi-billion dollar tax on banks and prescribing bank executive compensation. Brown, discussing the proposal through a spokesperson, said that “he is opposed to higher taxes, especially in the midst of a severe recession”. He also opposes it on the grounds that the tax would likely be passed onto consumers in the form of higher service and ATM fees.
  • He opposes the [health] bills approved in late 2009 by the Democratic-lead House and Senate as fiscally unsound. He has remarked, “Our taxes are going to go up dramatically… It’s not good for Massachusetts individuals and businesses.”

Whether all this is true or not, whether he is really going to act upon his supposed “ideas of libertarian mold”, I rather doubt it.

The fact that Obama expresses frustration about this result is rather amusing. For what does he expect to happen after all we have seen over the past year? In fact, he can brace for much worse from his party’s point of view. I pointed out the obvious almost a year ago …

[Obama’]s fundamental misunderstanding on this matter is that he believes these disagreements are nothing but political games. They are not. They reflect sincere and deep-rooted concerns of the direction where this country has headed. They represent the voices of millions of frustrated workers, businessmen, housewives, students, and retirees calling their representatives, jammed fax machines, letters, town hall meetings, and the like. The movement for liberty is not one of political expediency. Its members are not in it for personal, monetary, or political gain. They are in it for true conviction and with all their heart. But on top of that, it is a movement of substance, reason, logic, and sound understanding of historical and economic facts. There is nothing in the world that could change some one’s mind, once one has understood the true blessings of Freedom, Liberty, Peace, Prosperity, and Happiness. It is a patient movement. It is not in a rush. It isn’t going away. It will grow stronger year by year. To ignore it would be the biggest mistake Obama could make now.

If he continues doing it, the political retaliation will ensue sooner or later in the next Congressional elections and maybe in the next presidential elections. This is an unnecessary, harmful, and avoidable political gamble.

Whether or not this and other current elections are really being affected in a major way by the freedom movement as opposed to just clueless disgruntled voters, I don’t know at this point. But nonetheless, there are certainly at least a few among them who are beginning to tend toward libertarianism. Every single person we bring over to the pro freedom camp, away from the tyranny camp, is a permanent gain for our movement, for it is impossible to leave truth once you have found it.

On that same token, I am excited to see Ron Paul supporter John Dennis run against Nancy Pelosi this year in my district …

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