Earlier tonight I wrote at the Voluntary Trade Council Blog about the plight of the Cleveland office of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. It seems the office is currently sharing a building with two drug rehabilitation centersâ€”and with no security, Antitrust Division employees are subject to threats and the horrors of public urination. The DOJ would like to move the office to the local federal courthouse, which apparently has 18,000 of prime space available.
The problem? The General Services Administration is asking for $500 per square foot, which the Antitrust Division finds outrageous. This leads me to ask: How exactly does the government charge itself rent for buildings that it already owns? In theory, GSA constructs and maintains the buildings, and occupying agencies pay rent from their own budgets. But it’s all government moneyâ€”which itself is all stolen from taxpayers. I am reminded here of Murray Rothbard’s comments on the subject of government employees paying taxes:
[C]ontrary to carefully instilled myth, politicians and bureaucrats pay no taxes. Take, for example, a politician who receives a salary of, say, $80,000; assume he duly files his income tax return, and pays $20,000. We must realize that he does not in reality pay $20,000 in taxes; instead, he is simply a net tax-receiver of $60,000. The notion that he pays taxes is simply an accounting fiction, designed to bamboozle the citizenry into believing that he and the rest of us are on the same moral and financial footing before the law. He pays nothing; he simply is extracting $60,000 per annum from our pockets.
Similarly, the notion that the DOJ is paying “rent” to the GSA is also an accounting fiction. The government’s bean counters are simply shifting numbers from one column to another, essentially an act of busywork.
And to top it off, the DOJ is now seeking to find private commercial space to use in Cleveland given the GSA’s asking price for the courthouse space. This means that office space already owned by the government will go unused and private space will be taken out of the market for state use.