18 February 2009

Mr. President: Please Stay Home

I am taking issue with what I dare call hypocrisy in the Obama Administration. The President has made the economy a significant part of his agenda. It was the focus of the majority of his talks way back when he was "Senator Barack Obama / (D-IL) Presidential Nominee." Once he was "President-Elect Barack Obama," it was all economy, all the time. "President Obama" is even more fiscally focused. So why is he wasting money traveling to Denver and Mesa to do things he could do from home?

The harshest and sobering statements about the economy have come from the President. After visiting Elkhart, Indiana (more wasteful spending), Mr. Obama said:

"Last month, our economy lost 598,000 jobs, which is nearly the equivalent of losing every single job in the state of Maine. And if there's anyone out there who still doesn't believe this constitutes a full-blown crisis, I suggest speaking to one of the millions of Americans whose lives have been turned upside
down because they don't know where their next paycheck is coming from."
I don't doubt the President's veracity, or question the severity of the recession. He has used strong language repeatedly to compel lawmakers to pass the ARRA. He's painted such a bleak picture, Suze Orman has asked he stop talking about just how dire it is. But the reality is as he says. I see it in my new state of California, where state workers are being furloughed and fired, and where my boyfriend is trying to find a job. I see it nationally, in job cuts and foreclosures. President Obama said Tuesday - with the stimulus bill "We are putting Americans to work doing the work that America needs done." He's promised to pay attention to government waste. I say he starts by working from home, or at least from his office.

It costs a lot of money for the President to travel. He and the Vice President travel separately, using jet fuel for Air Force One and Air Force Two. The planes are significantly heavier when there's a press corp on board. Once they arrive, there is the cost of extra police officers - which must be covered by departments that may be already over budget. There is the cost of media coverage, with tv stations sending extra crews along the President's route and skipping commercials to bring viewers the presidential address in their area. It costs someone money to set the stage for the President's speech, It costs taxpayers to print those pens he uses to sign bills. It costs companies productivity when people miss work to see or protest the President's visit. There are costs to a presidential visit and I think President Obama has to practice what he preaches about eliminating government waste.

He's not the only one. Nancy Pelosi is in Vatican City meeting with the Pope. She's part of a Congressional Delegation. Excuse me. I thought we had a $10,000,000,000,000 national debt. I thought it was crucial to cut government waste. I thought we had a tech-friendly president. I thought it would be obvious America can not afford to send a Congressional Delegation to Italy. Congress lambasted the automakers for asking for money, yet flying in private jets. Pelosi is in succession for the presidency. I doubt she flew commercial. I also doubt she used her debit card to pay for the trip.

Again I implore the country be run more like a household. If lawmakers want to travel, they should pay for it on their own. We have a Secretary of State, whose job it actually is to travel the world promoting the United States. Everyone else (President Obama included) should looking into diplomacy by videoconferencing. We are broke. It's time to scrap appearances, forget keeping up with the Joneses, and put the "fiscal responsibility" in fiscal responsibility. That means the President use the Oval Office provided. It means members of Congress change their lifestyles to reflect the economic reality. That should also mean not wasting paper printing the ARRA, since lawmakers only had 2 days (before a vacation) to read 1000+ pages. The less money I have, the more I want to them to be aware of how they're wasting it. And I demand the President set the example.