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All the folks who decry government spending, and especially the politicians whose actions have produced a record annual deficit of $1.10 trillion, should be concerned and embarrassed by how many millions of dollars the Trump family is draining from the federal treasury.
Conservatives like to blame the deficit on out-of-control spending on social programs, but that’s not true. Experts say the deficit is more affected by the Republican tax cut, which alone is projected to increase the shortfall by a trillion dollars over the next decade. Trickle-down economics has again proven to be a lie.
The deficit is also ballooning because of Trump’s defense spending. His administration is projected to spend a record $989 billion for defense, spending that’s greater than the next 10 largest government expenditures combined. Only then can we turn to mandatory spending, which does not include Social Security (which is fully funded from payroll taxes and its trust fund through 2034) and only 49% of Medicare’s cost. Other mandatory spending includes $426 billion for Medicaid and $611 billion in income support set up by Congress for those who can’t provide for themselves.
All of these expenditures can be debated and their pros and cons argued as policy matters. And we do. And while every large program can find examples of waste and corruption, one glaring and unnecessary source of corruption is within the White House.
The biggest and most public abuse of taxpayer funds by Trump is his golf habit. Trump repeatedly criticized Present Obama harshly for playing golf instead of working, and vowed he would be “too busy” to play golf himself. But since taking office, Trump has been on a golf course, mostly his, 234 times as of Sept. 16, nearly 22% of his time. The cost for his golf trips is estimated as high as $102 million, or $435,897 per visit . By contrast, Obama played golf only 306 times during his entire eight years at a cost of $114 million, or $372,549 per visit.
The issue is not that any president plays golf. But setting aside Trump’s gross hypocrisy, the billionaire is costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars more than Obama to play golf, 2.6 times as much by one count. And while Obama played most of his golf on military bases with low costs, Trump has almost exclusively used courses he owns or operates, which means the taxpayers are paying Trump’s properties, making him a profit, for his own golf. That’s not right — it’s possibly illegal.
We taxpayers supply the president and his family with elegant housing, the White House, and their own private vacation retreat, Camp David in nearby Maryland. The president also has immediate access to cars, helicopters and planes to travel for his official business, which is a huge but legitimate expense.
But why are we taxpayers paying for Trump’s personal visits to Mar-a-Lago in Florida? Trump’s first four visits there cost an average $3.4 million per visit, well more than $1 million budgeted. As of February, Trump had taken 19 trips to Mar-a-Lago, which is estimated to cost taxpayers at least $64.6 million. That figure doesn’t include other visits by Trump to his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
It was controversial when George W. Bush went to Texas and President Obama went to Hawaii, but neither president spent nearly as much time vacationing away from Washington, nor simply vacationing, as Trump is doing now. Why not let the billionaire spend his own money on his personal visits? Why does the president have so much free time when he promised to work hard for the American people?
And again, Trump is making a profit off his travels. According to reports, Trump has spent more than 220 days at Trump properties, 29% of his time as president, and by June last year, that led to $16.1 million in political and taxpayer spending.
And it’s not just the president. Taxpayers are spending more millions on travel for members of Trump’s family, including his adult children engaged in private business. In 2017, taxpayers paid $100,000 in hotels alone for the Trump brothers to go to Uruguay on a business trip to develop Trump hotels. The Secret Service paid $27,724 at a Trump golf course and resort when Eric Trump went to Ireland for private business.
There are so many more examples, but again, why should we be paying for Trump’s family and business travel? Trump can afford to pay, and should pay, for his family’s own trips not connected to real government business.
Adding to all this, more millions are being spent by the U.S. government and others on travel to Trump properties, giving them favorable treatment even when it is not justifiable simply to curry favor with the president. And Trump reaps the profit.
Compared to a trillion-dollar deficit, the excessive expenditures on the president and his family may sound trivial. All presidents, after all, cost a lot to protect and move around. But the excessiveness, the personal use of government resources for private purposes and the flagrant funneling of money to Trump’s pockets exemplify the corruption and irresponsibility of the tycoon’s administration while average people like us are suffering from his policies.
Donald Trump has turned the U.S. government into a profit-making family business for himself. It’s about time we stop letting him do that.
Or just fire him. We’ll save a bundle.
Ken Ripley, a resident of Spring Hope, is The Enterprise’s editor and publisher emeritus.