Taxpayers Bailout Congressional Barbershop
As if we hadn’t heard all, in wasteful spending our our tax dollars, this next story is at the top of the list. The U.S. Senate barbershop more than double what they charge elsewhere in similar shops across the country. Yet despite these high prices, the shop, which is supposed to be self-sustaining, ended up $300,000 in the hole last year and got its own taxpayer bailout, proving once again that government is incapable of performing even the smallest tasks cheaply and competently.
This barbershop opened in 1859 and strictly served Senators, whose tonsorial treatments were provided at taxpayer expense, until the early 1970s, when it was opened to the public — with the proviso that Senators and Senate employees take precedence over the people they are allegedly serving. Senators now have to pay for their own haircuts, though of course their salaries are extracted from taxpayers as well.
And the prices they charge aren’t bargains. $20 for a trim; $27 for a shampoo, cut, and blow dry; and $105 for highlights.
So your question might be how can they be in the red with those prices? Simple, the workers are unionized federal workers. Capitol’s four barbers and stylists made $22,000 to $30,000 last year with no benefits. At the Senate barbershop, formally called Senate Hair Care Services, the top four barbers and stylists made more than twice that — $54,761; $70,349; $73,658; and $81,641 — plus they have a generous 401(k) plan, health care and paid vacation.
The government contributed $230,000 in benefits for the barbershop, according to the government, but that isn’t true, as in fact Americans, whose median income is just over $39,000, were forced to cough up the dough to keep this failing government enterprise, with its overpriced employees, afloat.
Terrance Gainer, the Senate sergeant at arms, thinks he has the answer: privatization. Gainer, who oversees the barbershop, told The Daily that he recognizes that the shop is “costing the government money, and that includes taxpayers like you and me.” Having made a career of government at various levels, he is under no illusions that the shop’s balance sheet can be righted from within; but he is still reluctant to pursue privatization, saying, “I just have not pulled the trigger. That’s on me.” The fact that he serves at the pleasure of a chamber dominated by Democrats, who generally dislike the private sector and adore unionized government employees, may have something to do with it, too.
Whether or not the barbershop is ultimately privatized, it provides a valuable object lesson in the inability of government to run a business. If elected officials and their appointees can’t even keep a small beauty parlor in the black, why on earth should they be trusted to run auto companies, mortgage lenders, and the healthcare system?