Ben Carson
Ben Carson Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

It was revealed yesterday that the Department of Housing and Urban Development spent $31,561 on a conference table set so that Ben Carson could better entertain guests at work. It was also revealed that then-Acting Secretary Craig Clemmensen had pushed a request from Ben Carson’s wife for a major upgrade of her husband’s office space. When told that the department would need congressional approval for any expense beyond $5,000, Clemmensen reportedly responded that they couldn’t even buy a decent chair for $5,000. This prompted the Washington Post to research the typical prices for conference tables and chairs.

They did find a couple of office chairs that cost more than $5,000. And they found this excellent option that came in just under budget:

Then there’s the Osaki OS-3D Pro Cyber Zero Gravity Heated Massage Chair, in firetruck red, on Amazon. For a measly $4,795.00, you can enjoy a 3-D Roller and “features that will allow for a very vigorous massage, or even a gentle massage.” These include, of course, “next generation airbags, computer body scan, Zero Gravity, lumbar heat, MP3 music system, Foot Rollers, chromo therapy, and more.”

As for conference tables, they asked Deb Longua-Zamero, an interior designer who worked on “the post-presidential office space for President George H.W. Bush.”

Longua-Zamero said high-end conference table sets can run upward of $20,000, so the $31,561 price tag is “not unreasonable” — at least not for corporate executives.

When it’s funded with taxpayer money, she said, “that’s a whole different ballgame.”

“I do think that anybody in a political office should be more conscientious about their choices because it’s coming from the taxpayers’ money,” she said.

It sounds like $31,561 is more than $10,000 or 50 percent more than what even high-end conference tables cost at the upper margin, so I am not sure why that would be a reasonable price even for a corporate executive. But there is something unseemly about a department dedicated to housing for the poor spending this much money on office furniture.

Of course, it had to be done. After all, HUD spokesman Raffi Williams explained yesterday that “the previous table was old and beyond repair.” I’d like to see this old table so I can discover how it it could be possibly be beyond repair. Had termites eaten away at the legs or did someone put their soft drink down without a coaster and absolutely ruin the finish?

When President Trump asked Ben Carson to serve as his HUD Secretary, Carson sensibly declined because he considered himself wholly unqualified for the position. It’s too bad he was talked out of that.. But if you visit him for lunch, don’t take your eating surface for granted. It cost a fortune.

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Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at