I was happy to see that presumptive incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner has announced that he plans on continuing to fly commercial when he commutes between Washington, D.C. and his district in Ohio. His approach is in contrast to that of current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has flown on an Air Force jet on her trips to and from San Francisco and who has a reputation for high living on the taxpayers’ dime.
I recognize that the costs of paying for the congressional travel, to say nothing of the cost of travel of the Speaker of the House specifically, is a proverbial drop in the enormous, full-to-the-rim-and-slopping-over bucket of our federal deficit. Nevertheless, I applaud Representative Boehner’s decision, and I hope it will presage some much-needed penny-pinching on the part of Congress. As my grandmother used to say, if we pay attention to the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves.
I can only hope that Representative Boehner’s sensitivities are shared by other Members of the incoming Congress. If they scrimp on their own emoluments, maybe they will hold the rest of the federal government to better account. In an era where we are racking up ludicrous deficits, any savings — no matter how small — are welcome.
CBS News has posted an interesting report on how much American taxpayers spent to send certain members of Congress, their family members, and assorted staffers to the recent “Copenhagen Climate Summit” that produced lots of hot air but no meaningful agreement. According to the congressional spending reports cited in the CBS piece, at last 106 people from the House and Senate attended. Each of the 21 Representatives who attended spent $2,200 a day in food and lodging; taxpayers also footed the bill for meeting rooms and $1,000 a night hospitality suites. When a CBS producer tried to ask House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the bill, she refused to talk about it. In addition to the massive delegation from Congress, the Obama Administration itself sent 60 more people to Copenhagen, adding to the overall taxpayer cost.
Members of Congress may talk in heartfelt terms about the recession, but their conduct shows they either don’t really understand or just don’t care. I’m not clear why any members of Congress needed to attend the “Summit,” much less dozens of them, plus spouses, kids, and hangers-on. Why should taxpayers pay for Speaker Pelosi’s husband to take a quick jaunt to Denmark to rub elbows with the likes of Hugo Chavez and other “climate change leaders”? At a time when so many Americans have lost their jobs and their homes and are eating Ramen noodles for dinner, how can Congressmen justify spending $2,200 a day for food and lodging — more than many Americans make in a month — and then support a Speaker who refuses to even answer questions about such wasteful spending?