How many times have you heard President Barack Obama blast the wealthy on everything from tax policy to social justice?
The new book Presidential Perks Gone Royal: Your Taxes Are Being Used for Obama’s Re-election highlights the reasons Obama and every other president to date should never malign anyone else’s wealth. I highly recommend you read it.
Fact is, the U.S. president, at least while in office, enjoys a lavish lifestyle that actually costs U.S. taxpayers more than the royal family costs Great Britain.
The U.S. prez tab is both an unknown and an eyepopper. Author Robert Keith Gray pinpoints a sizable portion of that tab.
In 2011 Brits paid $57.8 million to maintain the royal family. By contrast, it cost U.S. taxpayers approximately $1.4 billion to “house and serve the Obamas in the White House, along with their families, friends and visiting campaign contributors.” That cost is a baseline, by the way—the actual cost is certainly more.
That amount excludes the president’s salary, retirement, healthcare, and assorted other benefits.
In tackling the question of how much we spend on our president, Gray already had an insider’s perspective. He’s been a “close friend” to 5 presidents, served as appointments secretary to one and spearheaded a number of campaigns. Gray founded the only public affairs firm listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
Even as Obama has carefully crafted an image of a man of the people, Gray shows why no president can really make that claim once he’s elected, at least until changes are made.
A president and his family, wrote Gray, “have the exclusive and free use of all but five rooms of a 132-room mega-mansion that encompasses 55,000 square feet on 18 acres…”
That’s without Camp David, the property once used by all federal employees for recreation. President Franklin D. Roosevelt directed the purchase of the tract.
FDR then decided only presidents would use the 130-acre mountain retreat. FDR called it Shangri-La, but it was renamed for President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s grandson.
From multiple chefs on duty 24/7 (on both Air Force One and in the White House) to the White House dog handler whose annual salary is reportedly in the $100,000 range, U.S. taxpayers fund a lifestyle befitting more than one king.
It’s not surprising that taxpayer funded perks have increased with each administration. Obama, like each of his predecessors, expanded the amenities.
Gray is careful to note his figures may not be a complete picture of what it costs us to maintain our president and his family. “The growing chief executive perks,” wrote Gray, “are intermixed in the budgets of the National Park Service as well as the Interior and Defense Departments, all of whose secretaries answer to the president.”
Aside from that, there are 23 “separate accounts for unspecified ‘White House’ costs.
Gray also elaborates on the campaign advantages a president has, funded by the taxpayer. The only expense reimbursement for Air Force One is an amount equivalent to a first class commercial airline ticket when the prez flies his campaign buddies along on any of the many aircraft he has at his disposal anytime he wants them.
Limos, planes, helicopters—the buses Obama had built in Canada—we fund them all. The limos and buses, by the way, are destroyed once a president leaves office.
“During President Obama’s initial 365 days in office he made 160 flights on Air Force One, attended 28 political fundraisers, and seven campaign rallies outside of Washington. There were also 26 admitted vacation days, plus an additional 27 days at Camp David, while squeezing in 29 rounds of golf.”
As for those trips on Air Force One—the Defense Dept. budget sets aside $200 million a year just for those operations, said Gray. That’s not the whole cost, just what the DoD sets aside.
Gray also writes about Obama’s “record-breaking 469 men and women on the White House staff…” Gray calls them “assistant presidents,” and 27 of them are paid more than $170,000 a year.
Gray’s book provides a wealth of detail about the lifestyle conferred upon the leader of the free world.
One thing is clear—Obama has no grounds for disparaging anyone’s wealth, at least not while he’s in the White House living better than a king, or for that matter, the top ‘One Percenter’ in the nation.
Gray’s book is a valuable addition to the canon you might call ‘Reality Government,’ and it’s a sobering statement about how our tax dollars are used.
Presidential Perks Gone Royal: Your Taxes Are Being Used For Obama’s Re-election by Robert Keith Gray (New Voices Press; New York, 2012)
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/June 23, 2012)