The trip is on us
During visits recently to several college campuses, President Obama tried to make political points by stating that he and the first lady paid off their student loans just eight years ago.
Wow, just like a typical American family, right?
A peek at the Obamas' vacation habits certainly cast them among the rich and famous one-percenters, just the kind of people the president is quick to denigrate in his campaign speeches. While the dismal economy has many families struggling from paycheck to paycheck, the Obamas have wracked up 17 vacations over the last three-and-a-half years, and they're certainly not the kind that the Clark Griswold family would be taking on Holiday Road.
One of the Obama re-election campaign strategies is to stick it to Mitt Romney for being out of touch with working class voters. But that political rhetoric quickly wears thin when one sees the kind of pinball machine numbers the Obamas have been ringing up since taking over the White House.
When it comes to taking lavish vacations, the Obamas are in a class of their own among first families. According to White House sources, they spent $10 million of taxpayers' money on 42 days of vacationing in just one year. The first family's 2011 Christmas vacation in Hawaii alone reportedly exceeded $1.5 million.
Thanks to information secured through the Freedom of Information Act, Judicial Watch was able to get a breakdown on Mrs. Obama's mother-daughter vacation to Spain in August of 2010. At the time of that getaway, the White House described the excursion as a private trip and that the first lady and others would be paying their own expenses.
That was true for the hotel bill, but the American taxpayer got stuck with paying $470,000 for the flight. That tab was split between Secret Service expenses, (totaling about $255,000), and the cost for the flight and 15-person flight crew.
When it comes to taking a ride on the Michelle Obama vacation train, it's first class all the way. According to one observer, the first lady favors martinis with top-shelf vodka and the best in rich sparkling wines.
One critic stated that "she can't schedule enough getaways, and she lives from one to the next - all the while sticking it to hardworking Americans."
This may be one reason why the president dialed down the attacks against the General Services Administration's for its lavish spending at conferences.
"The American people can ill afford to keep sending the first family on vacations around the globe," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a written statement. "There needs to be greater sensitivity to the costs borne by taxpayers for these personal trips. It is hypocritical for President Obama to fire GSA officials for wasteful conference spending, while his family went on a luxury vacation in the Costa del Sol Spain that cost taxpayers nearly half a million dollars."
There certainly is a disconnect when we see the Obamas jetting to Hawaii or to the Mediterranean on the taxpayers dime while many Americans are struggling to balance their budgets and others are wondering how to make that next mortgage payment.
By Jim Zbick