Saturday, February 18, 2017

Panem et Circenses, or Just a Government Office?

The life of the Seventh Floor? Who knew.

There was a spate of overheated stories yesterday about personnel changes at high levels in the State Department, most of them repeating the New York Post's "bloodbath" headline, and none of which I found very interesting. But then there was this conservative website's take on the basic story (Secretary Rex Tillerson Begins Deconstructing 7th Floor “Shadow Government” at Dept of State) which went off on a weird tangent about what someone evidently imagines is the Imperial lifestyle of our own Panem on the Potomac. Here's a quote:
They live a life of high financed indulgence including: massive expense accounts, chartered airline travel, swanky cocktail parties, expense chauffeurs to take their kids to private school, seasonally designed home decor – appointed by only the very best interior designers, personal security to keep the commoners away, tickets to the best venues and reserved seating at elite DC restaurants.

With first rights to the budget expenditures, the 7th floor group finds no indulgence too extravagant for their intellectual elitism. They demand nothing but the finest because they are the most worthy of the DC professionally privileged – who are more equal than others; and after all, their jobs require them to host and visit like-minded diplomats, and celebrities with exclusive tastes from around the world.

How's that again? People on this fabulous 7th floor have massive expense accounts? Maybe that's what M&IE stands for. Chartered airline travel? Does a Black Hawk count? Chauffeurs? Only in fully armored cars.

I could possibly believe all of those things, but I'm calling BS on the fabulous decor. I've been to a few meetings on the 7th floor, and I didn't see any evidence that the very best interior decorators had been involved with the place. But then, maybe they keep that decor in some fancy part of the floor where they don't allow the likes of me.  

And what is that bit about having "first rights to the budget expenditures?" I'm afraid that many of my fellows citizens have no idea whatsoever of how the government works, and especially not how funds get appropriated by Congress, or even that there is a budget. There are people - voters - who really suppose that when some government big-shot wants to spend money he calls over to the Treasury and asks them to run the hundred dollar bill press for an extra hour that day while he fills up a truck.

It makes me curious where that perception comes from. From movies and television, of course, because that's where most people get all their information. But exactly which movies and TV shows?

I'm drawing a blank here, because I'm not a big consumer of pop media. Are government leaders regularly depicted as "living a life of high financed indulgence?" Do people think the Hunger Games is a documentary? When did the popular stereotype of a government office change from dreary and cheap to decadent and luxurious?       

Lastly, have there been any movie or TV depictions of U.S. Embassy life that were even remotely in the ballpark of reality?


Kate said...

How about in Madam Secretary where the Ambassador's kids have the stomach flu so they offer up a couple of couches in the Embassy? :)

TSB said...


Thanks! That's the kind of input I'm lacking, since I only recently became aware that there is such a TV series. Quite a few years ago there was one about a first-tour consular officer assigned to London (a typical first assignment, it seems). I think it bombed, but the premise was good. In the same way that Barney Miller was said to be the most realistic cop show on TV, the daily business of a visa line would make for great comedy-drama.

Anonymous said...

Good Post TSB! I love the colorful costumes but can we have more detail on the cuisine?? and maybe some music and aromas to go with it?? gwb

TSB said...

GWB: That fantasy vision of life on the 7th floor, or among the shadow government, or whatever, is so far beyond my grasp that I can't even come up with a good description. Anyway, my chaffeur is waiting to take my kids to their incredibly expensive school and I need to see the interior designer about some kind of seasonal decor that I'll put on my massive expense account, so I have to run or I'll be late for my charter flight to some lux destination.

James said...

" I need to see the interior designer about some kind of seasonal decor that I'll put on my massive expense account"
Well Skep it is spring, renewal and all that, but you really must pay more attention instead of scurrying off to those charter flights that wait in a "hot condition" on the tarmac for your every whim.

Anonymous said...

TSB: And don't forget, tomorrow is President's Day so be sure to send well wishes or you could get put on that'other' list! gwblol

TSB said...

James: You know, you're right. That charter plane isn't going anywhere without me, so they can just wait while I deal with the decorator.

GWB: Tomorrow is "Washington's Birthday," by U.S. law. "Presidents Day" is the bastard creation of retail stores and the newspapers that depend on them for advertising revenue. I assure you I will be celebrating General Geo. Washington tomorrow, and not shopping for sheets and pillow cases. Hrumpf!