For several weeks I have been trying to establish some accurate cost estimates for the use of the Air Force One Boeing 747, but to no avail.
During that period of time, I have sent emails to my local newspaper suggesting a story that would be of interest to our local citizens, because President Obama recently flew into South Bend for his controversial appearance at the University of Notre Dame. For days in advance of his appearance, lasting only a few hours, there were literally hundreds of law enforcement, military support personnel, and presidential support staff gracing our community, thus I felt the story has substantial local interest. Apparently our local newspaper was so busy selling obituaries (one of their largest profit centers) they were too busy to oblige.
Interestingly, I saw a very informative article on the Chicago Tribune website (6/15/09). Wouldn’t you know it my local paper carried a similar article the same date that was almost a copy of the Chicago article. So be it, I got the information that I was seeking.
When President Obama flew into Chicago on June 15th for a political pep talk on Health Care it cost the American taxpayer at least $236,000 for the round-trip from Washington. That, however, does not include the expense of the Secret Service protection, motorcades and helicopter transports. Frankly, for a 21/2 hour trip that is damn expensive and I suggest that it is an unnecessary expense placed on the backs of stressed taxpayers.
In 2000 the Government Accounting Office reported it cost $54,100 to operate each flight hour, or almost $67,000 in today’s dollars. The article also reports that the flight to Chicago is cheap compared to President Reagan’s 4,700 mile round trips to the western White House in California. It is also quick to report that this cost of $236,000 is approximately one-half the expense created when President George Bush flew to his ranch near Crawford, Texas. I suspect that the White House made a point to highlight the Bush cost to divert attention to the recent fiasco when Air Force One flew low over New York City for a photo op at a reported cost of more than $300,000.
Recognizing the legitimate security considerations that are forced upon our government during these hectic times there is some other cost-sharing done when travel is purely political. White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said, “The White House is committed to following all of the relevant rules and regulations regarding reimbursement for travel expense.” If you believe that I want to sell you the Golden Gate Bridge.
Frankly, I do not believe these figures for one minute. It does not take a rocket scientist to know that there are literally hundreds of government employees, law enforcement officials and support staff involved every time the president jumps on Air Force One. Since taking office, President Obama has climbed on Air Force One some 54 times, and I suggest that the cost to you and me is probably closer to some number between 54 million and 100 million greenbacks.
With modern electronic communications available to our President I suggest that it is far past the time to park the big jet in the hangar. Yes, our president requires security, but he does not need to fly across the nation or around the world at the drop of a hat. Video conferencing can save literally millions that could be more effectively spent on solving the ills of our great nation. I really believe that our new president is like a kid with a new toy when it comes to Air Force One, and it is time for his parents (the taxpayers) to send him to his room for a rest. The same is true with our president’s use of the television airwaves. He is in real danger of over-exposure and national embarrassment if his teleprompter breaks down.