One wonders what went through Michelle Obama’s head when she booked her luxury European holiday in summer 2010.
During a financial crisis in which her husband, Barak, has asked Americans to tighen their belts, the swishy Spanish holiday, with a reputed entourage of forty friends, would cost US taxpayers at least $80,000 a day.
Incredibly, Whitehouse press secretary Robin Gibbs attempted to bat away criticism of the cost to Americans by saying Mrs Obama is ‘a private citizen on a private trip’.
Which claim, one might say, is economical with the truth. Michelle Obama in Spain is a private citizen on a very expensive, publicly-funded trip.
The holiday party booked into Marbella’s super-luxurious Villa Padierna at a nightly cost of $36,600. Although it’s reported Michelle Obama will pay her own hotel costs, she arrived with dozens of bodyguards and other security personnel. Their generous per diem payments alone ($275) will run up a bill of more than $95,000. After that there are Mrs Obama’s personal staff whose cost and numbers haven’t been revealed at time of writing.
The president’s wife used Air Force Two for her ‘private trip’, costing $147,000 for the round trip.
Add in a brief official visit to meet Spain’s royal family on Majorca and Michelle Obama will have used 400,000 American tax dollars on her Spanish holiday with her younger daughter Sasha.
The First Lady does seem to be adept at putting her wants and desires first. She’ll have had no fewer than eight luxury holidays by the end of summer 2010. They include a visit to Los Angeles in June and a ten-day visit to Martha’s Vineyard in August.
New York Daily News blogger Andrea Tantaros wrote that Michelle O was behaving like pompous French queen Marie Antoinette, who said of impoverished French peasants who had no bread: “Let them eat brioche” – brioche being a luxury item made with butter and eggs.
It seems Mrs Obama is pretty oblivious to the hardship being experienced by poor and out-of-work Americans as she dines on lobster and oysters in swishy Spanish restaurants like the Buenaventura Plaza.
Robin Gibbs clearly hoped to squash the truth with his statement ‘The First Lady is on a private trip. She is a private citizen and is the mother of a daughter on a private trip.’
It was Tantaros who pointed out the hypocrisy of Michelle Obama’s extravagant use of public funds at a time when the president is stressing the need for sacrifice by ‘ordinary’ Americans.
Members of the political class worldwide – right, left and centre – are all prone to view public money as if it were their own. Britain’s 2009 expenses scandal showed massively greedy politicians of all parties claiming public money to fund everything — from house purchases to TVs to private travel to pornography, toothbrushes and even bath plugs. Once they decided the tax payer literally owed them a living and should pay for everything members of parliament wanted, their sense of entitlement was limitless. Instead of representing the public, they set about systematically ripping them off.
If Michelle Obama, during her time in the White House, is also too insensitive or greedy, or both, to rein in her use of public money then the president should do it for her. If he doesn’t, hopefully the American public will let the Obamas know that their holiday spending needs to come out of their own budget – not the public purse.