Paging Frédéric Bastiat

The US Forest Service is using a million dollars of its stimulus money to ... fix broken windows! How appropriate.  But these are not any broken windows -- these are energy inefficient windows for a visitor center that was closed two years ago and for which no budget exists now or in the future to reopen.   Beyond the nuttiness of building a multi-million dollar visitor center, then closing it only a few years after it was built, and then spending a million dollars on its abandoned carcass, no one was available to explain how energy efficient windows will save money in a building that shouldn't be using any energy any more.  Remember, for this spending to truly be stimulative, the money has to be spent more productively than it would have been in whatever private hands it was in before the government took it.

But even forget the stimulus question and just consider the issue of resource allocation.   I work on or near US Forest Service lands in many parts of the country, and know that their infrastructure is falling apart.  Congress loves to appropriate money for new facilities (like shiny new visitor centers), but never wants to appropriate money for capital maintenance and replacements of existing facilities.  So there are plenty of needs for an injection of $274 million in capital improvement money.  And I know that the USFS has had teams of people working for 6 months on their highest priorities.  And after all that work, they allocated  almost a half percent of their funds on upgrading windows in an abandoned building?

Postscript: I have vowed not to write about the US Forest Service because I interact with them so much and such interactions would not be improved by my dissing on them online [I am in the business of privitizing the mangement of public recreation and am constantly working to convince the USFS and other recreation providers to entrust more to private companies.  One thing many people don't know -- the USFS is by far the largest public recreation provider in the world, far larger than the National Park Service or the largest state park systems].  However, I feel on safe ground here, as I think virtually every frontline USFS employee I know would agree with this post and be equally angry.  In recreation at least, this is an organization that begs and pleads to get a few table scraps left over after the National Park Service is done eating, and it is crazy that they spend the few scraps they get this poorly.


  1. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA):

    A huge part of the problem is that USFS is in the department of Agriculture when it clearly should be part of Interior.

    While we're at it, so are Food Stamps, which should be in Health and Human Services.

    The USDA has become a phenomenal boondoggle all across the board. I farm for a living -- as in no off-farm jobs and not one cent of subsidy, even though we're eligible -- and there's nothing I'd like better than the immediate end of all agriculture subsidies.

    The USDA does some really good things, including research and economic analysis, along with a passable inspection service at border entry points, but on the whole they are a confused, bloated, barnacle of a department.

    The USFS window thing doesn't surprise me a bit, but the USDA wastes vastly more than that on things like running a national organic food certification program pre-occupied with distinctions that don't make a difference, such as that between manufactured potassium sulphate (bad) and mined potassium sulphate (good).

    A million mis-spent dollars is pocket change to these idiots.

  2. tehag:

    "However, I feel on safe ground here, as I think virtually every frontline USFS employee I know would agree with this post and be equally angry."

    Remember, you can never be forgiven for being right!


  3. Michael:

    I need six windows for my garage. If you know the location of the visitor center, I could, um, recycle them.