After losing an effort to block $2 billion more for one of President Barack H. Obama's successful initiatives -- the "cash for clunkers" program -- The Wall Street Journal reports that two leading Republicans are using taxpayer money to take their colleagues on vacations around the world.
Fortunately, their demands are leading Congress to buy more luxury aircraft which at least will benefit two American companies -- $350 million for Boeing (BA) and $198 million for Gulfstream International (GIA). But with 6.5 million Americans out of work, does this send the right signal?
Those two Republicans are prominent in the House and Senate. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) is leading five other lawmakers on a trip around the world; and Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) is taking a group of senators and their spouses to Europe for three weeks. These are just two of 11 separate taxpayer-funded August 2009 junkets for our Congress.
What is most interesting is where Congress is taking these luxury aircraft: Kuwait, Germany and Austria are the three most popular destinations. I cannot imagine why it is important for taxpayers to pay for these trips, and they do raise lots of questions, here are two:
- Why can't Congress people travel on commercial aircraft and pay for that travel with their own money?
- What possible constituent benefit can come from Congressional travel to these countries?
Meanwhile, the demand for new luxurious aircraft for such Congressional vacations could cost taxpayers over half a billion dollars. Between the Pentagon and the House, a budget has been allocated to acquire three Gulfstream Vs -- $66 million a pop -- and five business-class Boeing 737s -- at $70 million per aircraft. The total cost for these aircraft would be $548 million.
Does this make sense? Just remember what cheating-husband John Edwards said during his campaign for President: There are two Americas. Ninety nine percent of us live in the America whose taxes go to pay for the upkeep of the other 1 percent, which includes Congress.
By the way, it's not too late to stop this outrage. The budget has yet to be approved in the Senate. So you can send this post to your Senator and let him or her know your feelings.
Peter Cohan is president of Peter S. Cohan & Associates. He also teaches management at Babson College. His eighth book is You Can't Order Change: Lessons from Jim McNerney's Turnaround at Boeing. Follow petercohan on Twitter. He has no financial interest in the securities mentioned.