It has been in the news lately. There is an economic crisis. The federal government is operating at a deficit. People -- average citizens -- are cutting back on their expenses. Maybe it is all lies though. Another conspiracy perpetrated by the government just to keep the public confused and confounded.
President Elect Obama has been able to raise $10 million for his inauguration. The man is a better fund raiser than Jerry Lewis who only raised $65 million in the 2008 MDA Telethon. Add to that, he is mighty frugal with his own money -- at least we can hope that it is his own money. He is having a new tux made for just under $900 -- his first in 15 years. Then again, this could be another clothing deal like Sarah “Caribou Barbie” Palin received from the Republican party. Anything is possible in politics.
There are some who will argue that the President needs to look like he is prosperous because, as the argument goes, this will make the public feel better. Some argue that the American public expects the President and First Family to act and be treated a lot like “royalty.” or at least as close to it as our democracy will allow. Hence the elaborate inaugurations for incoming presidents.
To contrast this argument, it is noted that the Queen of England, Elizabeth, is quite frugal with her fortune of $478 million. She has now issued directives to her family that they need to cut back on ostentatious signs of living high on the hog during the financial meltdown. Much to the horror of fashionistas, the Queen is actually wearing the same clothes in public two or more times which is apparently a major fashion faux-pas.
It has now been reported that Obama and the families of two or three friends will be spending the Christmas holidays in Kailua, Hawaii. No doubt, Hawaii is a lot more appeal than “The Windy City” Chicago this time of year. No one would fault anyone who can afford to go to Hawaii for going. The first question that comes to mind is who is paying for this trip? Since Valerie Jarrett, who is an advisor and co-chairman of the Obama Transition Team, is also going along, one can wonder if donors to Obama’s transition fund are footing this bill in full, or even in part. Where they will be staying is one of Oahu’s most exclusive properties, where they are renting three privately owned homes.
This seems rather ostentatious in these economic times. What makes it all more difficult to accept is that this vacation is also costing the taxpayers -- and given the size of the US debt, future taxpayers as well -- a large chunk of money which quite frankly, the government doesn’t have.
The largest cost involved is for Obama’s Secret Service entourage. Providing security for the President and his family is expensive. How many Secret Service Agents are involved in providing protection for a President is classified information. An estimate of 100 agents is probably a conservative estimate. Their wages are a constant expense, however their travel expenses to Hawaii, lodging and meals are extras. Staying in Honolulu is not cheap, especially during high tourist times, such as over the Christmas holidays. The costs for airfare and lodging alone for five days can easily exceed $100,000.
There is also a cost to the city of Honolulu, which must provide local support services before, during and after the visit. Those costs are borne by the taxpayers of Honolulu, The city has a budget deficit of $454.8 billion for fiscal year 2008, which in an economic downturn is not likely to recede.
In fairness, Obama will be attending a private family memorial service for his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham. No one can fault him for wanting to pay his respects in this manner. However, Obama is no longer a private citizen. He lost that status on election day. He must now ensure that all of his actions are in the best interests of his employers -- the American taxpayer.
Obama must lead the country by example. He is not royalty. As a result, he needs to show fiscal restraint in all that he does. Obama needs to realize that every time that he steps out in public, it places an extra burden on the budget, and hence the taxpayer. If the average taxpayer can’t afford to travel, the President Elect -- not only today, but when he is president -- should travel only when it is absolutely necessary. Both the economic and carbon footprints of the Office of the President needs to be dramatically reduced. Obama needs to start now.
Related article: The Bush Legacy Tour