Barack Obama’s insane travel and leisure expenses have been a running joke throughout his presidency. (Unfortunately, the joke’s on us taxpayers.) The First Family revels in living the most luxurious expensive life possible while the peons struggle to bear the cost of the super-State, groaning through years of high unemployment and slow economic growth. Those who make a living trading on class envy are completely unconcerned about any of this, even as we rolled past the point where you’d think even loyal members of the President’s party would start offering polite suggestions that maybe trimming back on the vacations and golf outings might be appropriate for the guy who keeps demanding tax increases during a recessionary non-recovery.
Fresh off another fabulous vacation and brisk round of golf, the President spent an unholy amount of money on a pointless political junket that ended with an appearance on Jay Leno’s TV show – all of this in the midst of both economic strife and a worldwide security alert that shut down numerous American embassies for a week. To put it mildly, this does not seem like a prudent use of either taxpayer resources or Presidential time. We could have learned that Obama doesn’t know the difference between the Winter and Summer Olympics without blowing $180,000 an hour to fly him out to the Tonight Show studio. (Look, America, you had your chance to elect a President who knows about the Olympics, but you went with the guy who couldn’t bring them to Chicago.)
But Obama’s not the only one spending big bucks on pointless travel. Attorney General Eric Holder is no slouch in that department, either. As is customary with the Most Transparent Administration in History, it took a Freedom of Information Act request to pry the cost of Holder’s travel from the government, but it turns out Holder billed tax serves an astonishing $4 million in travel costs during Obama’s first term, including several purely political junkets. Fun fact: his very first super-expensive flight was to announce the expansion of Project Gunrunner, which ultimately become known as Operation Fast and Furious, a bloody nightmare that killed hundreds of Mexican citizens. You’re welcome, Mexico!
The Treasury Inspector General published an eye-popping report on “executive travel within the Internal Revenue Service” in late July. It turns out that a number of top IRS officials work in Washington, but prefer to live elsewhere… so they rack up millions of dollars in travel expenses. This also leaves them with less time for productive work. Other than the top executives indicated as problems, the Treasury report pronounced IRS travel “reasonable,” but that makes the unreasonable expenses stand out even more.
These high travel costs are hardly the only example of imperial government waste, and they might not be the worst example measured in dollars, but they’re especially absurd because they’re so unnecessary. They’re a symbol of the ruling class’s absolute refusal to tighten its belt in any way, even as the first hint of spending restraint prompts them to wave pink slips at essential federal employees. Look across the vast apparatus of government, and you can’t help noticing that the last things to be “cut” are the luxury perks of high officials, which should be the easiest thing to dispense with. They travel too often, they travel too lavishly, and they bring too many people with them. In an age of real-time telecommuting, this should be one of the first, easiest expenses to trim. But they won’t, not even a little. Instead, they spend a lot of time lecturing the rest of us about our unhealthy addiction to fossil fuels.
(Also at the bottom of the list for spending cuts are the most fraud-riddled and widely abused government programs. There’s nearly an inverse relationship between the integrity of a program, and the likelihood of budgetary restraint. But that’s a story for another day.)
Update: I see that Judicial Watch has loaded up the Mystery Machine with Scooby Snacks and FOIA requests, and set forth on another crazy adventure to find out how much Obama’s vacations have been costing taxpayers. He’s averaging a vacation a month this year. “These lavish personal vacations are symbolic of the total indifference this administration has to the out of control costs of government,” says Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch. “Once again, the administration is, contrary to law, stonewalling simple requests for just how much their luxe lifestyles are costing American taxpayers.”
Maybe Congress should pass a law requiring all televised Obama speeches to be accompanied by a screen crawl listing his total number and cost of vacations, date of last vacation, and cost per American taxpayer.
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