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Snippets are items you can cut-and-paste to address common misinformation and goofy claims across the Internet. Feel free to improve these snippets and add additional references.
Government pays outrageous prices for common items?
The $9000 hammer? The $600 toilet seat? Did the government actually pay outrageous prices for common items? No.
All those are urban legends. There is a hint of truth to them, but the details are left out which explains why there would be such a high price, and the items are never the same as the cheaper items pundits compare them to.
- The famous $600 toilet seat is a corrosion-resistant plastic case that fits over a toilet, used aboard the Navy's P-3C Orion antisubmarine planes. A smug shitbag congressman pointed out that similar covers were available from RV supply stores for $100..... but the DoD didn't ask for a cheap RV store cover, they asked for a mil-spec cover, and Lockheed built it for them.
- Then there's the wise-ass who tried to pay his $30,000 tax bill by bringing three Mr. Coffee machines in to the IRS, since the Air Force paid $10,000 for a half dozen coffee makers. Thing is, the Air Force coffee makers were custom built hot coffe, tea, and soup dispensers installed in the C-141 aircraft used by Rapid Deployment FOrces, so infantrymen crammed in the marginally heated cargo bay could have a hot drink while flying 14 hours to some nasty place to get shot at.
- The 'million dollar space pen' when the soviets simply used a pencil? The story goes that NASA wasted $1M on a special pen that could be used in space when the soviets just used a pencil - an example of economic negligence on the part of the government? No, another total, utter lie. NASA never spent the $1M - that was claimed by the pen maker, Paul Fisher, and they had good reason for not wanting to use a pencil, which would cause potentially serious problems if broken points were floating around in the space capsule.
- Then there's the hammer. The famous $500 hammer. Or was it $800? Or was it a $9,000 hammer? The story changes every time it's told, the dollar value going up and up. In reality, the hammer in question was $435. The context, however, is always missing. In reality, the Navy did only pay $7 or so for that hammer.... but because the hammer was part of a tool kit that came with the T-34C training aircraft, it incurred an equal share of the cost of administering the contract, procuring the aircraft and parts, and every other line item in the contract. Nobody notices a $438 surcharge when it's added to a $30,000 spare engine, but oh do they throw a shit fit when it's added to the $7 hammer! In reality, all they did was take the overhead cost of the contract, divide by the number of line items, and add the result to each line item. It doesn't fucking matter that it's not broken up proportionally, because it's all part of one contract and gets paid with one check. The press, who doesn't understand accounting, or how government contract math is simplified, just sees a $435 hammer.
Granted, the government pays too much for some things, it doesn't overpay as much as you think or as often. SOCOM currently pays less than $950 each for M4A1 carbines. I challenge you to find one on the civilian market anywhere near that cheap.
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