Michelle Obama recently revealed that she and President Obama don’t give Christmas gifts to each other. They merely say, “We’re in Hawaii,” and that’s Christmas gift enough.
But actually the present is from taxpayers, and it’s an expensive one.
The total cost to taxpayers of Obama’s vacations to Hawaii since becoming president is likely in excess of $20 million, and possibly much, much more. During a time of budget deficits that threaten the nation’s security and its future, the Obamas have chosen to maintain a “family tradition” and vacation halfway around the world instead of finding far cheaper alternatives closer to home.
The $20 million figure is based on estimates of the cost of the four Hawaii vacations the Obamas have taken during Christmastime 2009-2012. According to a detailed breakdown by the Hawaii Reporter, the annual excursions in 2009, 2010, and 2011 cost about $4 million, much of it attributable to the expense of taking Air Force One, at an hour rate of about $180,000, on an eighteen-hour roundtrip journey to Honolulu and back.
But $4 million almost certainly underestimates the true tally, as it does not include many miscellaneous items like the cost of flying advance teams out to Hawaii and separate flights Michelle Obama took in 2010 and 2011, when she left ahead of her husband, who was forced to stay in Washington to finish up work with Congress.
This year, Obama returned from Hawaii to complete a deal on the Fiscal Cliff and then jetted back to Honolulu, where he is now engaged in Part 2 of his vacation. The second roundtrip flight added about $3.24 million to the tab this time, bringing the cost of the 2012-1013 vacation to well over $7 million.
If we assume the estimates are probably quite low, then it’s likely to the bill for the combined vacations is more than $20 million.
Given that much of the cost involves transporting the First Family and its retinue, the Obamas could have saved taxpayers millions by doing what the vast majority of Americans do: taking either one trip a year, or none.
The Obamas get plenty of vacation. They have sojourned every summer in Martha’s Vineyard except for last year, when campaigning and pre-election concern about appearances got in the way. They often take a side trip somewhere else during the year, and Michelle goes skiing annually out West.
At the very least, they could spend their Christmas holidays at Camp David or at one of the many fine resorts outside of Washington, which would require only the use of the presidential helicopter to get them there.
If they must find a warm haven, a rental home on the Gulf Coast, the Atlantic shore of Florida, or even Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands could easily be arranged at a fraction of the price of getting to Hawaii.
Some argue that Obama is justified in returning to Hawaii because that is where he spent his formative years. But how many of us get to go visit our roots for a two week vacation every year?
The Obamas probably also feel they must go to Hawaii because they are creatures of habit. While there, they do the same things and visit the same places every year. But their allegiance to routine is costing the taxpayers – including those in the middle class Obama claims to care so much about – millions of dollars.
Which brings us to OBAMA 5-0.