How Much Is Baboon-a-palooza Costing You?

From Holden:

David Sirota did a good job of estimating the costs of teh Bush assministration’s Social Security Demolition Derby, now Congress is trying to figure it out.

House Appropriations Committee Republicans have quietly asked the administration for an accounting of its “60 Stops in 60 Days” blitz. [“Quietly asking”!! Why? Whatever happened to our co-equal branches of government?] And yesterday, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Government Reform Committee, formally asked the Government Accountability Office not only for the cost but also “whether the Bush Administration has crossed the line from education to propaganda.”

“No one disputes the right of the President to make his policy recommendations known to Congress and the public,” Waxman wrote in a letter to U.S. Comptroller General David M. Walker. “Yet there is a vital line between legitimately informing the public, as the President did in his State of the Union address, and commandeering the vast resources of the federal government to fund a political campaign for Social Security privatization.”


“Currently, no one in Congress or the public knows the full extent and cost of the federal resources being devoted to promoting the President’s Social Security agenda,” Waxman wrote.

Even Republicans raised their eyebrows when they heard new employees were brought on for the campaign, said a House Republican staff member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid embarrassing the president.

The costs are likely to be substantial. A rough calculation of commercial fares for the administration’s travels tops $15,000 for the scheduled speakers, but that does not count their entourages.

In 2000, when jet fuel prices were lower, the GAO estimated that flying Air Force One cost $54,100 per hour, or $60,250 in today’s dollars. So far, the president has traveled to Indiana, New Jersey, Kentucky, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, Florida, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa and West Virginia. That is enough, by commercial schedules, to take at least 30 hours, or $1.8 million.

A C-137C, which the vice president generally travels on, cost $10,300 per hour to operate, or $11,470 today. Cheney’s travels on the Social Security tour have taken him to Bakersfield, Calif.; Reno, Nev.; Battle Creek, Mich., and Pittsburgh, enough to keep a commercial flight in the air 14 hours, at a cost of $160,580.

Excluding security and aircraft costs, the White House has estimated that staff costs on presidential trips average between $22,000 and $59,000, the Associated Press has reported. Staff costs for Bush’s 16 Social Security events thus would range from $352,000 to $944,000.