The economy is in the toilet -- at least for the average taxpayer. We used to be able to say something like “for the average Joe” but a fraudster known as "Joe the Plumber" has denigrated the meaning of “average Joe.”
Regardless, the country has the largest debt in history, no matter what years dollars you compare it to. The only spending that the government can do is deficit spending. The only reason that the country is not bankrupt today is due to the largese of China. No, it is not magnanimous on behalf of China. They over invested in America, and cannot pull the plug without suffering severe economic damage to their own economy.
Normal people -- read: those who are not politicians or recipients of federal bail outs -- are cutting back on their expenses. They have scaled down their travel for the holidays. They are having to explain to their children that Santa Claus can’t bring everyone everything that they want this year for Christmas. More people are going to church these days -- not to pray, but instead to pick up free food.
Despite a failing economy and dire predictions, like an aging and failed rock star, the Lame Duck, soon to be former President, George Bush has begun his Legacy Tour. In fairness to ducks, Bush has been called a "Lame Something-or-Another" ever since he got into politics. My friend, the late Molly Ivins coined the name Shrub Bush many years ago, primarily, I presume, because it was not fitting for a lady to call him Lame Assed Bush.
Bush is now on his Lame -- er -- Legacy Tour. He wants people to remember him in a favorable light. Given that his approval ratings are lower than the economy, and even the approval ratings for another idiot, Sarah Palin are a bit higher, it could be argued that Bush is wasting his time. The most sought after and valuable photograph of 2009 is slated to be the one of Bush getting on the Presidential helicopter for the last time on January 20th.
As long as I have known Bush, dating back to when he was playing Governor of Texas, he has had a need to boost his ego. This need can also be described as unmitigated arrogance. As an example of this, when talking about his tour to Africa last February, he stated on Monday:
“I wish the American people could see what we have seen … People literally lining the roads in Tanzania, all waving and anxious to express their love and appreciation to the American president, who represents the American people.”
OK Shrub. You have that a bit backwards, but we can let that one go. It is rare that you say an almost perfect sentence.
On Tuesday, Bush will be in Greensboro, NC to pat himself on the back for a program that mentors the children of prisoners that he promoted in his 2003 State of The Union Address.
The distance from Washington DC to Greensboro is about 250 miles. The specific details are never made available until after the fact, but Bush will probably take Air Force 1 there and back. Approximate operating cost per hour: $56,800. Then you have to tack on the costs to transport his large Secret Service contingency in at least one separate airplane. Add costs to transport his motorcade by air which can include up to 20 vehicles. Because this trip has been announced in advance, there is also cost to the Air Force to have at least one or two fighter jets in fairly close proximity to the President’s plane, “just in case.” Of course, there are also the costs associated with sending advance teams to Greensboro to coordinate every mintue detail of his visit. Estimated cost to the taxpayer: $150,000 -- minimum.
All of this money that could be better spent, just so a politician who is almost finished, and who hopefully will fade into the woodwork, seldom to be heard from again, can pat himself on the back and try to create his presidential legacy.
Bush has racked up the most vacation days of any sitting president in history. Over 900 of those vacation days were at his Crawford, Texas ranch. The total costs to a taxpayer for a President’s vacations is classified information. One thing is certain: It isn’t cheap.
No one, especially in today’s climate, can argue against the need to protect the safety of the President and his family. No one can deny that there are times when the President must be seen by the public. However, it is not always necessary to see the president in person. Modern technology allows for video hookups which are almost as good as seeing someone in person. If a video hookup is cheaper, in terms of not only the expense to the taxpayer, but also the carbon footprint, a president should opt for the cheapest appearance. This is especially true during a time of economic crisis.
We can only hope that President Elect Barack Obama will keep in mind that everything he does has a significant cost to the taxpayer. Hopefully he will remember that he is going to Washington to serve the American people, not to be served by them and their tax dollars.