A couple of months ago I wrote to President Obama and asked that he appoint me to be the U. S. Volunteer Czar. I wanted the job because I’m so confident that volunteers could fix pretty much everything that’s wrong with this country. Instead of the appointment, I got a lousy form letter that thanked me for my concern, but never mentioned anything about my thoroughly researched and thoughtfully written letter.
But I’ve come up with an even better idea. What we need more than a Volunteer Czar is a Shopping Czar. This occurred to me yesterday when one of the news channels reported that a cruise missile costs $160,000,000. In the past I have ignored reports that my government pays $125 for an ordinary hammer and just under a hundred bucks to feed lunch to one of our soldiers. But A HUNDRED AND SIXTY MIL FOR A MISSILE? That’s insane!
For the record I pride myself in being a great shopper. I NEVER pay retail. A sign reading “80% off” doubles my heart rate. I’m one of many friends who I consider skilled at this trade. All of us clip coupons, scout sales and can recite from memory the best place that’s web-based or within 200 miles to buy anything.
I’ll bet I could have gotten us that missile at least half-off. Maybe we could have found some that were just past their expiration date, or were last-year’s model or perhaps something slightly used or with a couple of scratches or dents. Once they explode, who would know?
I know I can do a lovely homemade lunch for under eight bucks (maybe ten, with packaging and shipping) and I found perfectly good hammers at Home Depot for under $15, and there were a couple in the clearance bin on sale for $7. Some of my friends are positively addicted to shopping and would likely volunteer a few hours for free. Forget the paid position; I could get hundreds of folks lathered up about shopping for cheap missiles.
I know exactly how our government makes purchases. They use a thorough and complicated bidding process. But their contracts lock them in for as many as 50 years. That’s craziness. I sincerely believe that if the contracts were shorter and more flexible, AND if our contractors guaranteed the lowest price in the marketplace, both our national debt and budget would shrink considerably. With our purchasing power you’d think we could get a volume discount at something close to cost. Instead we appear to be paying a healthy “sucker” premium.
Please send me your thoughts.