I happened upon a piece in The Telegraph giving a brief overview of the President’s vacation to Martha’s Vineyard (his second vacation this year). It seems that our tax dollars are going to pay for ~ $210,000 worth of hotel rooms just for secret service agents whose duties sometimes comprise of luggage handling including “two large mesh bags full of basketballs”. (I arrived at this figure via the formula: 70+ rooms at $350/night for nine nights or so).
When you get your next W2 and glance down at the federal taxes entry please know that you are doing your part as a good citizen, “paying your fair share” as the President and his acolytes might say, by covering the cost of the MV-22 Osprey aircraft that was dedicated to whisking Bo, the President’s photo-op dog, up to the Vineyard on his own. I would imagine one of the passengers accompanying the first pooch on this vacation is his private dog walker who, like 226 other full-time White House staffers you and I are paying for, earns north of $100,000/yr. (I wonder if the not one but two full-time keepers of the Presidential movie projector on call 24/7 in case the Obamas get the urge to watch “Cheaper By The Dozen” at 4am take home $100k per annum each too? I’ll have to look into that one.)
Air Force One, a state-of the art wide-body 747 that seats 500 people, has in the past been used to ferry the President barely 100 miles from Washington DC to Williamsburg VA at the cost to the American tax-payer of $181,000 per flight hour. Indeed, the cost of flying one man, his wife, their two kids and one dog (this time Bo was roughing it with the humans) to Hawaii has been estimated at $3.6 million. This is the lowest estimate I could find. Some say the Obama’s Christmas holiday’s tab was double that but rabid partisanship casts doubt on these figures. Still, the fact that, as a taxpayer in a republic governed by “We The People”, I don’t even know how much it costs us to send the supposed citizen-executive on a bit of R & R is troubling enough. Even in his most mentally unstable moments I bet mad ol' George III knew how much a rip-roaring hunt in the countryside cost his loyal subjects.
Subjects. Hmmm. That certainly seems an apt moniker when referring to those of us dwelling outside the DC beltway and peering through the bulletproof glass—while passing our hard-earned dollars through the IRS slot labeled “Your Fair Share”.
I’m not picking on Mr. Obama per se. By no means is he the first President to cost the taxpayers exorbitant sums for vacations nor will he be the last. And to be fair, the transition from Lincoln casually strolling to the Post Office to mail his own letters whilst tipping his hat to passers-by to having the island of Manhattan frozen in lock-down mode and millions of New Yorkers majorly inconvenienced in the name of security just so a man and his wife can see a Broadway show did not suddenly occur on Mr. Obama’s watch. It was gradual and quite bi-partisan. One confiscated tax dollar at a time. Still one must consider this particular President’s lifestyle that casts him not just in the company of the reviled 1% but the .0001% when juxtaposed against his populist rhetoric that demands so much more from taxpayers already heavily burdened by rates that would have made King George drool with envy. Go figure.
I don’t think it’s offsides to ask if these Presidential vacations are really necessary in this time of exploding budget deficits: especially when he already has a private retreat at his disposal in the picturesque Camp David? Not to mention he works in a five-star resort that doubles as his home. It’s only a temp job at that. So come on, man. For a few more years you can grin and bear the sheer hell it must be to reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with its six stories and 55,000 ft. of floor space, 132 rooms and 35 bathrooms, 412 doors, 147 windows, twenty-eight fireplaces, eight staircases, three elevators, five full-time chefs, tennis court, single-lane bowling alley, movie theater, jogging track, swimming pool, and a putting green. It’s not like he’d never get out on routine Royal—I mean presidential—business. He logs plenty of $181,000 hours every year.
If anything how about the President doing what many working families do when times are tight and forego the family vacation for a year? As far as budget impact I realize it’s like throwing a deck chair off the Queen Mary (perhaps Titanic is a better metaphor). But it would at least show some solidarity with the people from whom he demands ever more sacrifice to help support a government vortex of waste that borrows $4 billion a day just to stay solvent.
To be clear: the Obamas are not the disease; like their predecessors from both parties (rapaciousness is ideologically indifferent) they are just the latest and most visible symptom of an ever-growing regality of a metastasizing Imperial Presidency whose pomp, circumstance, swelling entourage, shameless perquisites, ultra-luxuriant living and utter excess rival if not surpass those of the great despotic kings and tsars of Old Europe or the emperors of the pre-modern Orient. Certainly they are far beyond what would be expected of the head of one of three branches of a federal government that shares power with the houses of 50 states. When you consider that the cost of spiriting the entire British Royal family (not just William and Kate but the Queen, Prince Charles, Harry, and all the dukes and duchesses) around the entire globe for an entire year is under $10 million, I think it behooves us to ask “We revolted against the Crown why again?”
No wonder Mr. Obama is such an ardent believer in the statist-quo. As his powers and ministrations grow unchecked and unchallenged so too does the good life for those fortunate elites with the right bona fides (Ivy League, multiple degrees, little if any real world experience) who live in one of the seven out of ten richest counties in America that coincidentally orbit the capital city. To paraphrase the old SNL character Chico Escuela: “Government has been very very good to him.”
It’s always more fun to spend other people's money—especially on yourself under the guise of “public service”. And in the case of the Obamas—and most of the government crowd including hypocritical Republicans who claim to loath deficits that curiously enough exploded on their watch nonetheless (don’t get me started on Boehner)—when you’ve never created a dime of real wealth on your own but just shuffled it from one collegiate department or non-profit or bureaucratic agency to another, and eventually some finds its way into your personal bank account, living the life of their Hanoverian soul mates seems perfectly normal.
Now, I confess that we heartless right-wing types have embroidered in bold letters the Marie Antoinette faux quote “Let them eat cake!” on the banners that hang from the rafters above our secret meetings. You know those gatherings in which we crusty old Dick Cheney wannabes wear tuxes and monocles, twirl dastardly mustaches and toast our Halliburton profits while swilling crude by the glass and singing the Simpsons’ “Stonecutters” song? “Who holds back the electric car? Who makes Steve Guttenberg a star? WE do! WE do!” So we are old-fashioned monarchists to the core. That’s what they keep telling me anyway. (Actually the right side of the aisle hasn’t been the wealthy side for a while—see Westfield’s own Haas/Booker fundraiser on Patch—but why pop a good political/media myth?) So we can be forgiven for lionizing Reagan et. al. and first lady Nancy’s penchant for the grandiosity of an Empress Dowager Cixi at White House balls.
But what do the die-hard Obama supporters have to say about private flights for dogs, multi-million-dollar vacations to places exotic, endless rounds of golf, hobnobbing with Hollywood glitterati and Wall Street money-men, Michelle’s over-the-top Spanish shopping sprees, etc. while their leader bemoans that we don’t have enough money in the till to even keep the “People’s House” open to said people? That it’s always been this way? That he is no more profligate than Bush (it always reflexively comes back to Bush it seems.) All true. BUT…
This administration was supposed to be different remember? Weren’t we “the ones we’ve been waiting for” to clean house? Now our own house is closed to us until further notice due to budget cuts. Yet a $7.6 million 10-acre Martha’s Vineyard estate owned by a Chicago businessman remains wide open to a certain President and his inner circle. And the best part is we get to pick up most of the tab! Alright! Seriously, is this the kind of “change” I am being asked to believe in as I cut ever larger checks to support our own Court of Versailles on the Potomac?*
Maybe my man Pete Townsend—a Brit probably bemusedly watching we Yanks come full circle into yearning for a monarchy from which we revolted nearly two and a half centuries ago—can donate the next campaign slogan for the “party of the little guy” when they coronate Hillary as their latest politically correct populist mirage. “Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.” If there’s anything the commoners need to help curtail the steadily evolving and more detached ruling class in Washington, and its voracious appetite for the ever- dwindling public treasure, it’s yet another ruthlessly ambitious political insider hell bent on establishing a power dynasty to rival the much too un-American Kennedy and Bush families’ own disturbing reigns.
Then again, maybe this time will be different. Maybe her dog will fly coach? Somehow I doubt it.
That’s just my opinion…I could be wrong.
*(This is a semi-mixed metaphor I know but Buckingham Palace just doesn't seem decadent or indifferent enough to apply. Only the Sun King would do.)