President Obama’s recent trip to Africa cost taxpayers an estimated $7.5-12.5 million dollars per day, according to a new study by the National Taxpayers Union Foundation  which does its best to sort through the lack of transparent recordkeeping and tally how much taxpayers are forking over every time a President takes flight.
What’s more, President Obama is on course to become the second-most traveled U.S. President among post-war commanders, having spent 95 days on 25 trips abroad in his first term, surpassed only by George H.W. Bush. Although the operating cost of Air Force One can be estimated to be approximately $179,750 per hour (much more than the average American spends on a home during his/her lifetime), a plethora of other costs associated with Presidential travel remain elusive to taxpayers and government accountability advocates:
“What this really highlights is the lack of transparency and accountability in Presidential travel,” said study Author Michael Tasselmyer. “These things aren’t followed very closely.”
In addition to tallying the cost per hour of operating Air Force One, Tasselmyer also looked at other factors that can affect the total price tag of Presidential trips, including the length of stay at a given destination. He noted that because Obama tends to make more frequent, but shorter trips, other costs such as security detail and planning for the trip itself are likely to push the taxpayers’ bill even higher.
It’s not just the President who has been racking up the miles—and the bills—as taxpayers also cover the costs when the First Lady travels, and travel she does! Ms. Obama has been to Ireland, Africa, Western Europe, and Copenhagen on the taxpayers’ dime, likely flying on a C-40B or C which cost between $19,755 and $26,936 per hour, or at times the larger C-32 passenger jet, which costs taxpayers a whopping $42,936 per hour.
While travel is certainly a component of the President’s role, advocates of more transparent and fiscally accountable government are simply asking for better-recordkeeping so that travel can be monitored and costs tallied more easily:
“There seems to be a lack of information or a lack of interest about the costs of this stuff”, Tasselmyer concluded. “For a lot of it, the records just weren’t there.”
With massive national debts and billowing deficits as far as the eye can see, fiscal conservatives are certainly right to seek more accountability from elected officials when it comes to the none-too-trivial costs of Presidential travel.
Manzanita McMahon is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run jointly by Accuracy in Academia and its sister organization— Accuracy in Media.
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