President Donald Trump was elected on the promise he would “drain the swamp” in Washington. Instead, Trump has introduced some new creatures.
Exhibit A: Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price racked up $400,000 in private jet bills since May, Politico reported. Price has resigned because of the travel abuse, but before that happened, his spokesman was spinning it as a savings for taxpayers because the secretary was using his time more wisely than sitting in airports waiting for commercial flights. And if you believe that, we have some swampland in Washington to sell you.
Exhibit B: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin also has a fondness for travel. He requested a $25,000/hour military jet for his honeymoon to France, Italy and Scotland. Mnuchin said it was to ensure “secure communication” while he was away. His request was denied. That followed an Aug. 21 flight that Mnuchin and his wife took to Fort Knox, Kentucky, to check on the nation’s gold supply. (Don’t worry, it’s still there.) While they were at it, the “Moochin’ Mnuchins” took in the total eclipse of the sun. You don’t need special glasses to see that Mnuchin — a Goldman Sachs veteran with a net worth of $500 million — is experiencing an eclipse of ethics.
Exhibit C: Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt is spending $800,000 a quarter on a crew of around-the-clock bodyguards. Pruitt’s security detail of 18 people is three times as large as previous EPA administrators. EPA agents who investigate environmental crimes are being pulled off that duty to guard Pruitt. Sure, the guy is unpopular in some quarters because his main job is to dismantle the agency he leads. But the Secret Service-like protection is overkill.
And speaking of the Secret Service, the agency that protects the president and his large family is running on fumes. USA Today reported in August that 1,000 agents already had maxed out on salary and overtime for the year. At the time, 42 people were under agency protection, including 18 Trump family members, up from 31 under President Obama.
Despite his relentless criticism of Obama’s fondness for golf, Trump travels to one of his golf properties almost every weekend; visits to his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida cost an estimated $3 million per trip. The president’s adult children travel abroad frequently for business and pleasure. Donald Trump Jr. recently dropped his Secret Service detail, reportedly over privacy concerns. He certainly can afford private security.
This is government service. Check your sense of entitlement at the White House door.