Early yesterday evening, I had the chance to catch a somewhat cool sight – President Obama, his three Marine One helicopters, and two Osprey tiltrotor aircrafts flying from O’Hare, circling my neighborhood, and landing just over a mile away right off of Lake Michigan in Montrose Harbor. This airborne parade was followed minutes later by Obama’s armored limo and escort flying down Lake Shore Drive directly in front of my apartment building and office.
My 10-year-old was soon able to join me on the roof for the spectacle. He watched all of it – from the takeoffs at O’Hare to the landing less than 10 minutes later (for the Ospreys at least – the Presidential choppers took longer). I was even able to explain to him why the SUV following Obama’s limo has its hatch open – so the Secret Service can have clean shots at anyone attacking the caravan. To this he responded: “Obama should just go in a taxi with tinted windows before or after the limo and police cars as a decoy – even safer.” Thinking like a future Mossad agent, I told him.
For adults and kids alike, it is truly is an awesome experience seeing the full force of the Office of the President move from Point A to Point B. But the costs of Presidential visits are astronomical if you take into account the cost of the aircraft, personnel, and fuel – not to mention the disruption that takes place when business workers are delayed getting to meetings or home to see their families because of road closures. By my estimates, this trip to Chicago easily cost taxpayers over $1.5 million if you factor into account the nearly $1 million cost for Air Force One flight time (to and from DC) and all the other aircraft and cars associated with the visit.
So you say, that’s the cost of doing business as President of the United States of America. But what business was he doing? He was fundraising not for himself, but for Senator Richard Durbin at up to $35K per head in the form of “meet and greet” dinners and sessions in Gold Coast and Lincoln Park with the goal of raising $1 million for Durbin and other Democratic candidates.
While Obama brought in the big bucks for his political ally with the trip, we need to ask ourselves at what cost – and whether such a trip is even a fair use of the accoutrements of the Office given all the resources that taxpayers are footing the bill for.
Heck, if the candidates themselves were paying the bill for the President’s travel cost, the whole thing would have been a money losing operation! And I’m not even factoring into account the lost productivity in the workforce within Chicago – and the number of dinners missed by dads and moms getting home late from work given the closures of roads, including the main parkway into and out of the city along the lake.
It’s a great and humbling sight seeing the full force of the President of the United States in transit. But it’s even more humbling to see the costs associated with such a visit and to realize the trip would be at a loss if calculated on a true P&L basis from a fundraising perspective if taxpayers did not pay for the trip.
Alas, not enough people think about these trips from a total cost supply chain perspective regardless of political preference or affiliation!