Taxpayers spent $1.4 billion on Obama family last year, perks questioned in new book
11:32 PM 09/26/2012
Taxpayers spent $1.4 billion dollars on everything from staffing, housing, flying and entertaining President Obama and his family last year, according to the author of a new book on taxpayer-funded presidential perks.
In comparison, British taxpayers spent just $57.8 million on the royal family.
Author Robert Keith Gray writes in “Presidential Perks Gone Royal” that Obama isn’t the only president to have taken advantage of the expensive trappings of his office. But the amount of money spent on the first family, he argues, has risen tremendously under the Obama administration and needs to be reined in.
Gray told The Daily Caller that the $1.4 billion spent on the Obama family last year is the “total cost of the presidency,” factoring the cost of the “biggest staff in history at the highest wages ever,” a 50 percent increase in the numbers of appointed czars and an Air Force One “running with the frequency of a scheduled air line.”
“The most concerning thing, I think, is the use of taxpayer funds to actually abet his re-election,” Gray, who worked in the Eisenhower administration and for other Republican presidents, said in an interview with TheDC on Wednesday.
Specifically, Gray said taxpayer dollars are subsidizing Obama’s re-election effort when he uses Air Force One to jet across the country campaigning.
When the trip is deemed political, it’s customary for the president to pay the equivalent of a first class commercial ticket for certain passengers. But Gray says that hardly covers the taxpayer cost of flying the president and his staffers around on Air Force One.
“When the United States’ billion-dollar air armada is being used politically, is it fair to taxpayers that we only be reimbursed by the president’s campaign committee for the value of one first-class commercial ticket for each passenger who is deemed aboard ‘for political purposes?’” Gray asks in the book.
In the book, Gray admits Americans want their president to be safe and comfortable but argues the system should be reformed to stop the amount of unquestioned perks given to the president.
“There is no mechanism for anyone’s objection if a president were to pay his chief of staff $5,000,000 a year,” he told TheDC. “And nothing but a president’s conscience can dissuade him from buying his own reelection with use of some public money.”
Aside from a salary, the president gets a $50,000 a year expense account, a $100,000 travel account, $19,000 entertainment budget and an additional million for “unanticipated needs,” he notes.
Here is a sample of other pricey taxpayer funded perks exclusively reserved for the president:
The president can to appoint high-paid staffers without Senate confirmation: Obama has 469 senior staffers and 226 are paid more than $100,000 a year, according to the book. Seventy-seven are paid as much as $172,000 per year. He also has appointed 43 “czars.”
The president can vacation for free at Camp David: Gray writes that each round trip made to Camp David costs the taxpayers $25,350. It’s also estimated that the combined transportation and personnel costs for a Camp David visit are $295,000 per night.
The president has a full-time movie projectionist in the White House theater: Projectionists sleep at the White House and are there 24 hours a day in case anyone needs to see a movie. “Compared to the 450 times President Carter used the movie theater in his four years in the White House, the average American citizen, according to industry statistics, goes out to see a movie slightly less than five times a year,” Gray writes.
The president’s family’s gets certain travel and security expenses paid while vacationing: “First Lady Michelle Obama drew flack from the media and irate citizens when it was disclosed that, not counting Saturdays and Sundays, she spent 42 days on vacation — within the span of one year.”
The president’s dog gets its own high-paid staffer: “Bo made the news when he and his handler were flown to join the president on vacation in Maine,” Gray wrote about the Obama family dog. “It has been reported that the first family’s dog handler was paid $102,000, last year.”