Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The White House: European Vacation Cost Won't Be Released

Since 1995, Congress has required that salaries paid to staffers in the West Wing of the White House be made public. This doesn't include White House kitchen or maintenance staff, nor does it include the private chef that flies in from St. Louis to bring deep-dish pizza. All these "official business" family vacations are not included either.

You'll be pleased to learn that it is costing you and I $1,448,500 per year for the staff that Michelle Obama FEELS she needs to execute her duties as First Lady. In comparison, Laura Bush's staff had a budget of $561,325 for annual salaries. What the hell ARE the duties of the First Lady??? Hosting luaus and barbeques at the White House on our dime? And does that warrant almost $1.5 million a year to put together? I can put together a gathering on far less than that! And it'd be fun, too.

Let's not forget the family vacations the Obamas seem to take on a regular basis when Daddy O has "official business". Last month, Michelle and her homegirls went sightseeing in Paris while they were in town for the 65th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion. We paid for a huge staff, numerous aircraft, and a motorcade of about 20 cars for the Paris and London sightseeing tours. Right now, they're in Russia while Barry is taking nukes off the table to let the world know "Come hit us again!" This month, the First Family is planning a trip to Martha's Vineyard. Ain't that nice?

CNS is reporting that "the White House will not reveal the cost to taxpayers of the European vacation that first lady Michelle Obama and the president's two daughters, Malia and Sasha, took last month." Why not? Let me 'splain it to yinz.

A Congressional Research Service (CRS) report from April 2007 provides guidelines for estimating what the first lady’s passenger flights alone cost in public money. That would not include the cost of the cargo flight, the Secret Service personnel or the cost for meals and lodging of the agents.

The report cited White House Military Office estimates from fiscal year 1998 that said the first lady’s passenger plane costs between $2,958 per hour to operate, while the Air Force estimates it to cost about to $10,789 per hour.

A flight from Washington to Paris would be seven hours and 30 minutes, according to Air Routing International, a company that guides corporate flight planners. A flight from Paris to London would be 40 minutes, and a flight from London to Washington would be seven hours and nine minutes.

If these flight hours are multiplied with the cost per hour estimates in the CRS report, the air travel cost would range from $22,185 to $80,917 for the trip from Washington to Paris. From Paris to London, it would range from $1,952.88 to $7,120.

The return trip from London to Washington would range from $20,706 to $75,523. The varying estimates are based on whether the White House Military Office estimates are used or the higher U.S. Air Force estimates are used.

Combined, the first lady’s air travel cost would have been $44,843.28, under the White House estimate or $163,560.50, under the Air Force estimate, but these estimates are for fiscal year 1998 dollars.

Adjusted for inflation to 2009 dollars, the cost to taxpayers of the Washington-to-Paris-to-London-to-Washington air travel would have ranged from $58,834.02 to $214,591.38, according to the inflation estimates by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Costs associated with these trips, however, generally involve much more than the operational costs of the specific passenger aircraft,” the CRS report says. “When the president travels abroad, several passenger and cargo aircraft accompany Air Force One. When the vice president or first lady make such a trip, a single cargo aircraft accompanies either of them.”

Rules distinguish official and unofficial travel by the first family and administration officials. Official business would include the president meeting with foreign leaders, while unofficial business would include the president traveling to campaign for a candidate of his party or a first family vacation.

“The travel polices of specific administrations concerning the reimbursement of expenses for unofficial travel generally are not publicly available,” the CRS report said.

This takes real cojones. To take vacation after vacation after vacation while the rest of us are watching every dime we spend is elitism at its finest. They don't want the public to know because the seeds of discontent are already sprouting, and once it takes firm hold, it'll be like trying to stop a runaway freight train with a piece of cardboard.

Just think! We've only got 3 years 6 months and 12 days of this crap to go!

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