JULY 15, 2009
In the midst of the nation’s dire financial crisis and astounding unemployment rate, the federal government spent $700,000 to treat officials of one struggling agency to a lavish three-day conference at an upscale resort.
U.S. taxpayers treated hundreds of Social Security Administration employees (and their relatives) to a festive retreat at one of Arizona’s fanciest hotels, the Biltmore Resort & Spa in Phoenix, which is described as a desert jewel with a golf course, dozens of acres of lush gardens and swimming pools.
Besides the fancy lodging, the getaway included airfare, hotel entertainment, dancers, motivational speakers and food, according to news reports. There was also an evening excursion to a local casino. The agency says such meetings are essential and that the Phoenix jaunt was just one in a series of such regional meetings at an annual cost of more than $1 million.
The purpose of this latest desert oasis getaway, according to Social Security Administration brass, was to master the art of reducing stress due to a growing number of death threats against agency employees. No details were offered on who exactly has threatened their lives, however.
The retreat outraged several lawmakers, including top members of the House Ways and Means Committee who demanded an explanation for the trip in a letter to Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue. The federal legislators ask why “At a time when millions of Americans are out of work and having to do more with less,” it decided to put on a taxpayer-funded $700,000 motivational conference at the prestigious Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa.
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