I’m a huge champion of penny-pinching, but there are times when being miserly can be penny wise and pound foolish –as in stupid and destructive.
I can’t help but point out that it was vulgar frugality that led to the revelations about the Secret Service scandal now imploding the agency charged with protecting the president.
As no doubt you have heard, the U.S. Secret Service is investigating allegations that some of its agents brought prostitutes to their hotel rooms in Cartagena, Colombia, ahead of President Obama’s arrival for an economic summit. Prostitution is legal in Colombia, but soliciting women for paid sexual favors is against Secret Service policy. The Washington Post reported that on Wednesday, the Secret Service announced the departure of three employees connected to the scandal. Earlier this week, the agency revoked the top-secret security clearances of all 11 men under investigation and placed them on administrative leave. Ten military personnel are also alleged to have been involved in the embarrassing incident.
Although there hasn’t been an official report of what happened, according to The Post’s account, the whole ugly mess came to light when one of the prostitutes wasn’t paid what she wanted, agency sources said.
“One person with close ties to the Secret Service, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak freely about an ongoing investigation, said he was told by agents that the woman involved in the dispute ‘freaked out’ after she was not paid and banged on walls and doors in the hotel hallways,” reported The Post’s David Nakamura and Ed O’Keefe.
The Colombian prostitute allegedly got angry when the agent wouldn’t pay her the $800 he had agreed to but instead offered the woman 50,000 pesos, the equivalent of about $30, according to an interview the woman gave to The New York Times.
So, really, it comes down to this: The agents’ misdeeds got them into deep trouble. And one man’s alleged penny-pinching ensured that the whole world would know about it.
So my question to readers: Do you remember a time when pinching pennies led to far more trouble than the saving was worth? Send your comments to email@example.com. Be sure to include your full name, city and state and put “Secret Service” in the subject line.
Controlling College Cost
Would you give up a percentage of your future earnings to avoid taking out student loans to pay for your college education?
The Post’s Brad Plumer wrote an interesting piece recently about a proposal by some students in California. The students suggest that rather than charging tuition, public universities in California should take 5 percent of the graduates’ salary for the first 20 years after graduation (for incomes between $30,000 and $200,000). Essentially, rather than taking on debt, students would prefer to sell equity in their future earnings.
One reader agrees with the idea. “What I like most about it is it changes the priorities 180 degrees,” reader “paulyheins” wrote in the Wonkblog article’s comments section. “Under this plan, colleges would have an incentive to graduate the student and graduate them with the best education and job finding skills possible. That way the student would pay back more. As it stands right now colleges are like healthcare - the longer you stay in the more you pay. Colleges currently have a vested interest in keeping the student for as long as possible and hold no responsibility for finding the student a job or career.”