To the Editor:
I have noticed that taxpayers on the Vineyard actually care about how their tax dollars are spent. When it comes to the local level, they are laser-focused. However, it’s easier to ignore outrageous spending by state and federal agencies, as we think that it is only a few pennies out of our personal pockets, and that is true. But those pennies add up. The proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2018 is 4.094 trillion dollars. That’s a big number: $4,094,000,000,000. If you divide that by the 325 million people living in the U.S, that’s about $242 per week per person, or about $500 per week for every person who has a job.
OK — I don’t pay $500 per week in federal taxes, and neither do most of you. But I care about what my tax dollars are spent on, and I think you do also.
Now, we can disagree as to whether we want our dollars spent on border walls and defense, or school lunches and healthcare. One thing high on my list is protecting the environment.
The reason I am writing this letter is because I noticed an article about Scott Pruit’s “soundproof phone booth.” Yup, a soundproof phone booth — I watched “Get Smart” in the ’60s, and I really got a kick out of the “cone of silence.”
But now I am watching the real world, and I am not getting much of a kick about the head of the E.P.A., Scott Pruitt, getting a $43,000 soundproof phone booth in his office. Let me point out that this was acquired illegally: bit.ly/pruittbooth
For those of you not reading on your computers, there is a $5,000 limit for such purchases without approval of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which was not even applied for.
For people in the trades, here are some of the breakdowns :
The GAO reported that the breakdown for the bill included “$24,570 for ‘Privacy booth purchase, delivery, and assembly,’ $3,470 for ‘Concrete Floor Leveling,’ $3,360.97 for ‘Drop Ceiling Installation,’ $3,350 for ‘Prep and Wall Painting,’ $7,978 for ‘Removal of CCTV Equipment,’ and $509.71 for ‘Infrastructure Cabling and Wiring.’”
This is a phone booth. $3,470 to level the floor? I can’t find out who got paid to do that, but in the Trump administration, I would bet it is a friend or relative of someone. $3,470 to level the floor of a phone booth — the room this booth was installed in already had a floor.
But here is the real rub — Scott Pruitt is on record that he thinks the EPA is useless — that climate change is not real — and he has done nothing but weaken laws that protect the environment since assuming leadership of the EPA.
With that in mind, the EPA issued a statement. While the agency maintains other areas in its building where officials can place secure calls, and while none of Pruitt’s predecessors have had such a setup, the agency argued in its statement that the privacy booth allows Pruitt to “make and receive calls to discuss sensitive information … (up to the top secret level) for the purpose of conducting agency business.”
I just have to ask: What does the EPA do that requires a top secret–level clearance? Isn’t this the Environmental Protection Agency? What is so “top secret” about that?
Vote them out 2018.