There is nothing fair in this world; There is nothing safe in this world; And there’s nothing sure in this world sang Billy Idol in the 1980s classic White Wedding.
My wife and I spent last weekend playing tourist in Washingon DC. We went down with some friends who were going to a wedding – the groom of which, works in the Administration. Happily, he was able to get us on the list for a public tour of the White House.
Gone are the days when job seekers, veterans’ widows, or just about anyone could go to the front door of the White House and ask for an audience with the President. In fact, now to get even a basic tour of the Executive Mansion requires a ton of paperwork and a background check. While this drives the Libertarian in me somewhat mad, I can understand the need to provide the President of the United States, and the White House itself with a high level of security.
In going on this tour, I had a number of observations.
First: The White House itself is truly a national treasure, and it provides an excellent venue for foreign visitors, dignitaries and others to contemplate the grandeur of the United States of America. Unlike European castles, the White House is not the property of a king or a potentate, but rather serves as the residence and office of whomever happens to be the President. Falling under the guise of the National Park Service, the White House is owned by the American people and is really part of the infrastructure of our government. President Obama and his family may be living there today, but they are living in the same place that John Adams did when he was POTUS, and it is the same place that the 97th President will call home.
Second: When you are spending someone else’s money, be it for health care, or security, or at an open bar at a wedding, you always overspend. Sure the White House and the President need security, but the shear level of it is ridiculous. I wonder how much the Obama family would spend on security if they had to pay for it out of their pocket, or out of a stipend amount? Unlimited budgets – like that of the secret service – lead to unlimited excess, and that is what you see at the White House.
Third: Even though security at the White House is tight, the Secret Service puts the TSA to shame. Every member of the Secret Service that I came into contact with professional, friendly, knowledgeable and efficient – exactly the opposite of every TSA employee that I run into. Maybe the Secret Service should run airport security in the country.
Fourth: Speaking of airports, I was shocked by the President’s hypocrisy in attacking “corporate jets” as a symbol of excess. As I looked around the opulence of the house that the President lives in I wondered what made him more important that the CEO of General Electric, or of Acme Widgets when it comes to the need to be able to travel quickly and in relative safety. Heck, the President has the largest corporate jet around, and it’s paid for with other people’s money. Shareholders, and Boards of Directors spend their money when they purchase of lease a jet for company staff and executives, so supposedly they believe that there is an economic or business value to them. Tax deductions for business investments should not be determined by some sort of populist standard, but by whether or not they serve to increase the profits and tax base of the company.
Fifth: Even though I am in the District of Columbia every month, I rarely have an opportunity to enjoy what it has to offer. I hope we all seize the opportunity to grab a lunch hour, or a few minutes before or after our day to just look around and enjoy the wonderful sights that surround our nation’s capital.