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Does Obama have an imperial presidency? Probably not

April 7, 2013
The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus (Howell)

A well-known conservative radio host this week got off a cheap shot at the presidential family.

He noted that first daughters Sasha and Malia were going to enjoy a trip to the Bahamas that included a taxpayer-funded tab of about $250,000.

Stopping just short of a well-voiced "Harrumph," the radio host wondered aloud if any of his listeners had to miss a White House tour during their spring break vacations because of sequestration cutbacks.

The righteous indignation was clear. How dare the taxpayers have to pay such an exorbitant sum so that the president's daughters can live the high life while we ordinary citizens suffer.

Spare us the outrage.

Let's assume the facts are right. That's a big assumption because many of these claims are bogus. Recall the outrage over the supposedly sky-high costs of a presidential visit to India, including the claim that the 7th Fleet was being deployed to make for a more secure trip.

Turned out that was a bunch of malarkey, which didn't stop a lot of high-profile critics from spreading the false news.

But let's give this claim the benefit of the doubt. Let's also note that many taxpayer costs are not directly incurred by the president's family but are mandated as part of the protection mandated by the Secret Service.

So how much would this trip be nicking us? Less than a penny for every man, woman and child in the United States.

The family, in fact, would have to take 12 of these trips before the cost would rise to a cent per American resident.

Because of security concerns, it is difficult to get a good accounting of the cost of providing security to the president and his family.

But a recent story about the cost of Vice President Joe Biden's travels offers some insight.

According to information posted on a government website, a single day in Paris for Biden cost $500,000. This wasn't a vacation; he was there on business.

Put in perspective, this again amounts to far less than a penny for every person in America.

Still, it seems like a lot of money. As the old saying goes, "A million here, a million there, pretty soon you are talking about real money."

How does the bill grow so high? Partly because well more than 100 hotel rooms in a pricey city are booked so that the contingent can have lodging, office space and control over several floors.

When asked about the costs, a former member of the Bush administration said they seemed about right.

Critics try to make it sound like the Obamas are enjoying an imperial presidency beyond what is normal for the office. Again, the facts say different.

Last year, the federal government paid $3.7 million to former presidents to cover pensions, compensation, benefits for office staff, travel and office space.

The costliest of the former presidents was George W. Bush, whose tab came in at $1.3 million. That cost never seems to raise the ire of conservative pundits who are stunned that the young Obama girls take vacations.

Bush takes the government money even though he - just like Bill Clinton - is independently wealthy and able to command huge speaking fees. But again, in perspective, it is less than a flyspeck in the federal budget.

The solution for the country's financial woes lies in areas such as defense spending, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and tax reform.

The conservative critics must know that the cost to take care of presidents and their families is a nonissue.

Why then do they keep bringing it up?

 
 

 

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