There was nothing unusual about Wednesday night's State of the Union Address.
President Obama vowed to freeze government spending (in 2011, after the mid-term elections of course), blaming the mountain of federal debt on the previous administration, and promising to reduce the national deficit. The Democrats, led by cheerleader House Speaker and VP Joe Biden, who jumped up and clapped at nearly every pause in the speech, nodded in agreement while many Republicans and all the Supreme Court justices stayed anchored in their seats. Don't expect the partisan politics to end anytime soon in Washington.
The president and Congress can twist the economic numbers any way they want to give their respective political parties the ammunition needed for the November elections. We'll see a lot more of this juggling act from the president and candidates as the elections draw closer.
But thanks to taxpayers having instant access to information, the elected officials are finding it harder to play shell games with our tax dollars. A lot of those congressmen and women you saw clapping and cheering each time Obama mentioned getting a handle on government spending were the same ones who recently took a little trip to Copenhagen for the climate summit.
This wasn't a trip by just a few presidential staff members and congressmen. At least 106 people from the House and Senate attended the conference on our tax dollars, and with the president and his executive staff, members of the state department and EPA officials also attending, the total U.S. delegation numbered over 165. The list also included spouses, a doctor and a protocol expert. Of course, Obama's photographer had to attend, especially with elections looming later this year, and so many photo opportunities for Democrats.
The total price tag for the trip was a cool $1.1 million.
Congressional expense reports filed on reason to cringe. It cost 15 Democratic and six Republican congressmen $2,200 a day each for their food and rooms.
Air fare costs also ran up a nice tab. The 59 House and Senate staffers who flew commercial under the government rate of $5,000 to $10,000 each cost a total of $408,064. The cost of flight time alone for three military jets was $168,351.
Those were our tax dollars at work.
When asked to comment about the trip, Sen. Henry Waxman of California said he was surprised at the cost but that he didn't consider it a pleasure trip. Most other government officials also had no idea what the trip cost.
Since she filed a group expense report, House speaker Nancy Pelosi was one person who did know the bottom line but when asked by a reporter, she had no comment.
House Speaker Pelosi, and everyone else who nodded their approval when Obama mentioned tightening up on spending during Wednesday night's address should take a good look in the mirror before giving us tips on how to balance a family budget. Experience tells us that whenever we learn about these global summits and congressional fact-finding trips, or hear this president talk about bailouts, stimulus spending or massive government programs such as his health care reform, it's time for taxpayers to hide their wallets.
By Jim Zbick