espresso maker


At the end of the last Illinois legislative cram session, pols stayed up late into the night to figure out the state's pension crisis, failing to come to consensus and setting Mike Bost off on an epic, viral rant on the House floor. Was it the long arm of Michael Madigan? The corruption of the process? The intractable divide between upstate and downstate?

Or was it not enough coffee?

But not all of the food fuels residents of state-run institutions. Some of it goes straight into the mouths of state lawmakers and their staffs.

According to the comptroller’s office, the General Assembly paid $20,015 for coffee supplies. Along with coffee, the money paid for tea, sugar, creamer, artificial sweeteners and drink-related supplies.

That amounted to about $113 in coffee-related spending for each of the 177 members of the House and Senate. Broken down further, that’s about $9.42 per month, per member, for java.

Nine dollars? A month? No wonder Bost was so cranky. I drink that much coffee every couple days. The average American spends $20 per week, though that falls as people age to $14.15 a month for the 45-and-older crowd, and the legislature trends gray. $9.42 a month for coffee-related acquisitions is either an example of the efficencies of government or evidence that our legislators are underserved.

As Rich Miller notes, this has been taken up as an example of Big Government Spending. But bureaucratic cutbacks don't always pay off in savings:

Strange as it may sound, to get a grip on costs, we should in many cases be hiring many more bureaucrats—and paying more to get better ones—not cutting their numbers and freezing their pay…. Indeed, much of the runaway spending we’ve seen over the past decade is the result of our having crossed that line years ago—the last time there was a Democrat in the White House, a divided government, and calls for slashing the federal workforce in the air.

Coffee = better bureaucrats:

"The group all showed activation of the working memory part of the brain," Koppelstätter explains. "But those who received caffeine had significantly greater activation in parts of the prefrontal lobe, known as the anterior cingulate and the anterior cingulate gyrus. These areas are involved in 'executive memory', attention, concentration, planning and monitoring."

Clearly Illinois isn't getting enough planning and monitoring (cf. pensions, though if Madigan is any indication executive memory is in fine shape). How much do you expect for a mere $9.42 a month?

Related: Being disappointed in the Illinois legislature is as rich a tradition as being disappointed in the Cubs. If it makes you feel better, New York's legislature might actually be worse (it's a long structural analysis, but interesting if you like that sort of thing).


Photograph: _Zeta_ (CC by 2.0)