With the United States facing a national debt of more than $14 trillion, the largest since World War Two, wouldn’t it make sense for the White House itself to start trimming its own spending? A good place to begin cutting would be Michelle Obama’s rather generous vacation programme. Keith Coffler, who edits the influential White House Dossier, notes that Michelle Obama spent no less than 42 days on vacation over the past year – that’s one in every nine days:
Her vacations, the cost of which are mostly borne by taxpayers, include trips to Panama City, Fla., Martha’s Vineyard, Hawaii, South Africa, Latin America, Vail, Colo., and her visit this week to her brother in Corvallis, Ore.
The total does not include a nine day sojourn in Martha’s Vineyard that the Obamas will enjoy this month. Nor does it include a trip she made to Ireland and Great Britain in May, which I’m counting as official travel.
As Coffler points out, there is a significant cost to the public purse:
Taxpayers pick up most of the cost of transporting the first lady and her extensive entourage – including Secret Service and her staff – to her various destinations. While she may in some cases pay some of the tab for her personal expenses and travel, the amount is dwarfed by the overall cost to the public.
It is unclear what the total cost to the taxpayer actually amounts to. According to one estimate provided by the Daily Mail, the First Lady stands accused by sources inside the White House of spending “$10 million of US taxpayers’ money on vacations alone in the past year.” Judging by the amount of vacation time Michelle Obama has taken and the level of security and staffing that she has, this sounds like a plausible figure. It would be in the public interest to have the exact numbers provided by the White House so that Americans know precisely how much of their money is being spent on vacations.
There does appear to be an unhealthy sense of entitlement on the part of the First Lady, which seems in poor taste at a time when 14 million Americans are out of work, the housing market is collapsing, and the United States is facing the strong possibility of a double-dip recession. Perhaps Mrs Obama could take a few tips on austerity as well as humility from her British counterpart Samantha Cameron, who has just one assistant, in contrast to at least 17 personal staff for the First Lady, and doesn’t feel the need to travel en masse with an entourage at taxpayers’ expense. The vast majority of Americans are making significant sacrifices at this time of economic turmoil, and tens of millions are struggling even to make ends meet. It’s time for both the President and the First Lady to exercise a bit of fiscal responsibility, not least when they are spending other people’s hard-earned money.
Meanwhile Judicial Watch sues for Michelle travel documents.
Judicial Watch is filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) against the United States Air Force to obtain records related to the June 21-27, 2011, trip taken by First Lady Michelle Obama, her family, and her staff to South Africa and Botswana.
Earlier reports suggested that the cost for air travel cost taxpayers $430,000, but Judicial Watch believes that additional Secret Service officers and White House staff security tallied further expenses.
“How much did the American people spend to send the First Lady on a family outing in Africa? That’s what we want to know,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “On the surface, the trip seems to have been totally unnecessary and was as much an excuse for the Obama family to go on a safari as it was a mission intended to advance the nation’s business in Africa.”
The Judicial Watch FOIA request filed on June 28, 2011, seeks:
Any and all records concerning mission taskings of First Lady Michelle Obama’s June 21-27, 2011 trip to South Africa and Botswana.
Any and all records of concerning transportation costs for Mrs. Obama’s June 21-27 trip to South Africa and Botswana.
Any and all passenger manifests (DD-2131) for Mrs. Obama’s June 21-27, 2011 trip to South Africa and Botswana.
Yesterday, a widely circulated british tabloid article suggested that Michelle Obama's trip were costing taxpayers $10 million, thanks to her expensive tastes.
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