FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Unfairness of Context

It doesn’t seem fair.  And the unfairness is especially apparent when it’s put in context. It is not as though he wanted to spend thousands of dollars on a personal phone booth, or use government funds to pay for charter or first class air travel around the world. And the criticism is not directed at him because he supports cuts to HUD programs contained in the Trump budget.  Nor is it because he eliminated language in the HUD Mission Statement that promised inclusive and discrimination-free communities.  Nor is it because he is opposed to equal rights for the LGBTQ community.  It’s just because his wife was trying to do him a favor and all she wanted was a simple dining room table befitting the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development when entertaining guests in his office.  Everyone would agree that food tastes better when nicely served.

The reports about Ben Carson and his presumed profligacy, infuriated people who work in the White House.  As a result, they intend to assert more control over expenses incurred by HUD when it comes to spending taxpayer money on office improvements and the like.  They may, of course, have been especially sensitive about a $31,000 dining room table because they were thinking about the fact that Mr. Trump’s Fiscal Year Budget proposal, among other things, cuts the Department of Housing’s funding by $8.8 billion, or 18% of what it had been the preceding year, and cuts the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as food stamps, by $17.2 billion. In light of the size of these cuts, Ben’s dining room table seems fairly insignificant. And when it comes to other cabinet secretaries and their profligacies, Ben seems like a bit of a piker.  Mr. Trump has filled his administration with people who REALLY know how to spend money.  Dining room tables would be beneath them.

The most profligate is Scott Pruett. Scott, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, has to get credit for being among the most creative when it comes to extravagant spending. Scott, like all people in his position, has a private office.  According to reports, in addition to a private office, he has had biometric locks installed on his office doors that only permit someone to enter his office if the would-be entrant’s fingerprints are recognized by the lock.  This is to prevent the person who has casually entered the secure building in which Scott’s office is located and has passed by armed guards, a metal detector, and an X-Ray machine, from casually wandering into Scott’s office by mistake.  In addition to the security protections and the presence of armed guards patrolling the halls of the EPA, Scott has had a phone booth installed in his private office.  The phone booth cost $24,750, almost as much as Ben’s dining room table.  Whereas the dining room table was needed for gracious dining, the phone booth was installed so Scott could have privacy when talking on the phone in his private office.  Scott’s greatest extravagance, however, is not wanting to talk in a phone booth in his office.  It’s his flying habits.

Scott almost always charters a plane or flies first class when he flies commercially, because people in the cheap seats have on occasion been rude to him.  He also takes advantage of his position to commandeer army transports. On one occasion, he and his staff took a military plane from Cincinnati to New York City so they could catch a commercial flight to Europe.  The cost of the military plane was $36,068.50, $5,000 more than Ben’s dining room table.  On March 1, 2018, Scott let it be known that on a podcast set to air on March 5 he would announce that “there’s a change coming” which probably means he’ll be sitting in the back of the plane with the people who have on occasion spoken rudely to him.  I assume one of his many armed guards can admonish anyone who addresses him rudely. And Scott is not, of course, alone in his profligate ways. Cabinet secretaries also enjoy the perks of air travel that they plucked from the government for themselves or their spouses. Indeed, a fondness for luxurious air travel has been the hallmark of, if not a requirement of, the appointment to a position as secretary of most anything in the Trump administration.

Tom Price, Health and Human Services Secretary, spent more than a million dollars during his 7 ½ month tenure, for private charter and military flights, or $133,333 per month. Ryan Zinke, Interior Secretary, on one occasion spent $12,000 flying from Las Vegas to Montana.  Steve Mnuchin, treasury Secretary of Wizard of Oz fame, spent $811,800 on air travel in the first 12 months he was in office or $67,650 a month.

A review of the amounts the peripatetic cabinet secretaries have spent on airfare, makes a dining room table seem like chicken feed. Poor Ben is the one taking the rap.  And it wasn’t even his fault-it was Candy’s doing.  She is Ben’s wife and it was she who assumed responsibility for making sure that his office was up to her standards. We should all be blessed with such a thoughtful wife.

More articles by:

Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
Robert Fantina
Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections
Joseph Flatley
The Fascist Creep: How Conspiracy Theories and an Unhinged President Created an Anti-Semitic Terrorist
Joseph Natoli
Twitter: Fast Track to the Id
William Hawes
Baselines for Activism: Brecht’s Stance, the New Science, and Planting Seeds
Bob Wing
Toward Racial Justice and a Third Reconstruction
Ron Jacobs
Hunter S. Thompson: Chronicling the Republic’s Fall
Oscar Gonzalez
Stan Lee and a Barrio Kid
Jack Rasmus
Election 2018 and the Unraveling of America
Sam Pizzigati
The Democrats Won Big, But Will They Go Bold?
Yves Engler
Canada and Saudi Arabia: Friends or Enemies?
Cesar Chelala
Can El Paso be a Model for Healing?
Mike Ferner
The Tragically Misnamed Paris Peace Conference
Barry Lando
Trump’s Enablers: Appalling Parallels
Ariel Dorfman
The Boy Who Taught Me About War and Peace
Binoy Kampmark
The Disgruntled Former Prime Minister
Faisal Khan
Is Dubai Really a Destination of Choice?
Arnold August
The Importance of Néstor García Iturbe, Cuban Intellectual
James Munson
An Indecisive War To End All Wars, I Mean the Midterm Elections
Nyla Ali Khan
Women as Repositories of Communal Values and Cultural Traditions
Dan Bacher
Judge Orders Moratorium on Offshore Fracking in Federal Waters off California
Christopher Brauchli
When Depravity Wins
Robby Sherwin
Here’s an Idea
Susan Block
Cucks, Cuckolding and Campaign Management
Louis Proyect
The Mafia and the Class Struggle (Part Two)
David Yearsley
Smoke on the Water: Jazz in San Francisco
Elliot Sperber
All of Those Bezos
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail