President Obama leaves for Martha's Vineyard on Saturday for still another vacation. The Government Accountability Institute calculates that Mr. Obama spends twice as much time at leisure than on policy briefings. That's not necessarily a bad thing, considering the policies. Nevertheless, we're paying a lot for a debt to pleasure.
Nobody begrudges a president a little time off, but we're paying $2 million for a comfortable holiday on Cape Cod, the Massachusetts summer retreat of the wealthy elites. As in medieval times, when the court attended the sovereign wherever he traveled, the White House entourage always tags along, another source of public expense. The nearest hotel charges up to $345 per night. Motel 6 digs won't do for this president's royal staff.
Mr. Obama, who constantly warns of the widening gap between rich and poor, is staying in the $7 million mansion of a rich Chicago campaign contributor. "Social tensions will rise," the president warned last month, "as various groups fight to hold on to what they have, or start blaming somebody else for why their position isn't improving." It's clear what side of the wealth gap he prefers to live on.
Every president takes criticism when he takes time off. Bill Clinton once employed a pollster to tell him where, you might say, the public wanted him to go. (They prescribed the Grand Canyon.) George H.W. Bush, his son George W. and Ronald Reagan retired to family places in Maine, Texas and California. They treated the public purse with respect, but to be fair, Chicago in August is not much of a holiday destination.
Mr. Obama represents the "live for today" attitude that, in a larger context, is bankrupting the nation. Consider Detroit, where the politicians are like Ado Annie, the girl in the musical "Oklahoma!" who just can't say no. Rubber-stamping outrageous benefits demanded by public-sector unions contributed to $3.5 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. Motown is only the first to fall.
Fiscal storm clouds are gathering above Chicago and Philadelphia. States from Alaska to Connecticut, Hawaii to Louisiana and almost everywhere between, have only enough cash to pay 60 percent or less of the benefits promised to retirees. The federal government isn't far behind. There's no sense of approaching catastrophe. Mr. Obama has shown no interest in doing anything about it.
The people deserve better. They're suffering under increasing tax and regulatory burdens that stifle an economy struggling to recover. They deserve R&R, too. Most of them would settle for a long weekend around the pool at the Holiday Inn. But why deal with a problem that will be a catastrophe years, or even decades, in the future? Leaving such messes for his successors frees time for the president to hit the links for another 18 holes, with lots of mulligans.
The Washington Times