The Crazy Reason Treasury Department Officials Can’t Get Their Work Done

The Crazy Reason Treasury Department Officials Can’t Get Their Work Done

By Eric Pianin

Treasury Department officials are being driven to distraction these days, but it’s not because of the expiring debt ceiling or other pressing financial controversies.

Instead, loud music from a New Orleans-style street band known as Spread Love has reportedly driven some officials and employees at the Treasury building to wear earphones to block out the noise and even move meetings to other parts of the building to find some peace and quiet.

Related: The Next Debt Crisis Could Be Much Worse than in 2013, GAO Warns

“We have to relocate our conference calls,” one Treasury employee told The Washington Post. “We can’t have meetings in that corner of the building anymore. It’s like they’re playing music in the building.”

Members of Spread Love have become fixtures of downtown Washington’s street scene and are collecting generous donations for playing their drums, trombone and other brass instruments. Tourists and other office workers out during their lunch hour appear to love the group, but not so the serious-minded economists and bean counters at the Treasury – especially when the band moves within easy shouting distance at the corner of 15th and G Streets NW.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s staff members aren’t the only ones complaining about the jarring music. Partners and associates at the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom find it hard to concentrate on their cases with daily interruptions. It got to the point that the firm dispatched a security guard to offer band members $200 a week if they would play somewhere else. Lonnie Shepard, one of the trombonists, told the newspaper that he laughed at the offer because “We can make that in an hour.”

Related: End of Sanctions Worth Hundreds of Billions to Iran

Rob Runyan, a spokesperson for the Treasury Department, said that employee complaints have made their way to the office of the assistant secretary for management, Brodi Fontenot, but there really wasn’t much that could be done.

“The band and other street noise are part of the distractions of working in downtown D.C.,” Runyan said in an interview Friday.   

Chart of the Day: Long Way to Go on Coronavirus Testing

Healthcare workers with ChristianaCare test people with symptoms of the coronavirus in a drive-thru in the parking lot of Chase
Jennifer Corbett
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The White House on Friday unveiled plans for a new effort to ramp up testing for Covid-19, which experts say is an essential part of limiting the spread of the virus. This chart from Vox gives a sense of just how far the U.S. has to go to catch up to other countries that are dealing with the pandemic, including South Korea, the leading virus screener with 3,692 tests per million people. The U.S., by comparison, has done about 23 tests per million people as of March 12.

After Spending $2 Billion, Air Force Bails Out on Planned Upgrades of B-2 Bombers

The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber flies over the Missouri Sky after taking off from the Whiteman Air For..
© Hyungwon Kang / Reuters
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The Air Force has scrapped a planned upgrade of its B-2 stealth bomber fleet — even after spending $2 billion on the effort — because defense contractor Northrup Grumman didn’t have the necessary software expertise to complete the project on time and on budget, Bloomberg’s Anthony Capaccio reports, citing the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer.

Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters that the nearly $2 billion that had already been spent on the program wasn’t wasted because “we are still going to get upgraded electronic displays.”

Big Hurdle for Sanders’ Plan to Cancel Student Debt

Chip East / REUTERS
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Bernie Sanders wants to eliminate $1.6 trillion in student debt, to be paid for by a tax on financial transactions, but doing so won’t be easy, says Josh Mitchell of The Wall Street Journal.  

The main problem for Sanders is that most Americans don’t support the plan, with 57% of respondents in a poll last fall saying they oppose the idea of canceling all student debt. And the politics are particularly thorny for Sanders as he prepares for a likely general election run, Mitchell says: “Among the strongest opponents are groups Democrats hope to peel away from President Trump: Rust Belt voters, independents, whites, men and voters in rural areas.”

Number of the Day: $7 Million

NY mayor cites climate stance in endorsing Obama
By The Fiscal Times Staff

That’s how much Michael Bloomberg is spending per day in his pursuit of the Democratic presidential nomination, according to new monthly filings with the Federal Election Commission. “In January alone, Bloomberg dropped more than $220 million on his free-spending presidential campaign,” The Hill says. “That breaks down to about $7.1 million a day, $300,000 an hour or $5,000 per minute.”