There’s some of this going around the Trump administration.
The “this” is a penchant for spending lots of money needlessly. Taxpayer money, at that!
The latest perp happens to be Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Tom Price, who until just this weekend had been using private jets to travel to hither and yon to do the public’s business. What’s more, the public has been picking up the tab.
Secretary Price has grounded the private jets pending a government review of the practice. “We’ve heard the criticism. We’ve heard the concerns. We take that very seriously and have taken it to heart,” Price said.
Fair enough. This is a bad habit that has emerged during Donald J. Trump’s time in the White House.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin wanted the federal government to fly him and his new bride to a honeymoon location. I took note of that request in an earlier post and pointed out that Mnuchin is worth an estimated cool $500 million. I believe he could afford to pay for his own air transportation, although the secretary did mention “security concerns” as his reason for seeking government travel.
Back to Price for a moment.
Price’s travel habits came under scrutiny from Politico, which reportedly identified about $400,000 in private jet travel by Price since he took office earlier this year. Price hasn’t defended his use of private jets; indeed, he acknowledges the “optics don’t look good.”
While he was a Republican member of Congress, Price criticized then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s use of luxury jets to fly around the country. Pelosi in fact had access to government air travel, given that at the tsheecond in line of succession to the presidency. She was criticized correctly for her use of the luxury aircraft.
As Politico has reported, Price’s use of these private jets breaks with recent custom: Price’s use ivate jets breaks with the practices of Obama administration HHS secretaries Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Kathleen Sebelius, who flew commercially while in the continental United States and deliberately avoided taking charter jets. HHS staff last year scrapped a proposal for Burwell to take a multi-city tour linked to the kickoff of annual Obamacare enrollment because the trip would have required charter aircraft and cost about $60,000.
I just want to offer a word of caution here.
Everyone, it seems, is mindful these days of profligate spending at all levels of government. Secretary Price needs to re-calibrate his public-relations radar to ensure he can avoid getting caught in this PR trap. Don’t blow the public’s cash for the sake of convenience.