Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 3, 2013

Another View: Imperial presidency? Not quite

By the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus

---- — 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....

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. ...

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. ...

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.

The solution for the county’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?

Livingston County Daily Press & Argus