There is a heavy sense of entitlement blanketing the Donald Trump administration. The president jets off to his private resorts nearly every weekend. His Secretary of the Treasury Stephen Mnuchin flew on the taxpayers’ dollar to watch the recent eclipse from the fine vantage point of Fort Knox. Then, he tried to weasel a jet for his honeymoon even though the multi-millionaire is far from broke. Now, we find that Secretary Tom Price has been doing something even more appalling.
Instead of improving the Affordable Care Act, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Price apparently believes that the American people’s health is best served by him chartering planes. Price is a strong proponent of the horrendous Republican bill that dumps millions of people off of insurance plans and makes going to the doctor beyond their means. Yet, he easily justifies upgrading himself from commercial flights to private jets.
Does that make Americans feel better? That is doubtful. Last week Price used private jets on five separate trips. The HHS spokesperson tried to justify Price’s use of charter planes, POLITICO reported:
‘As part of the HHS mission to enhance and protect the health and well-being of the American people, Secretary Price travels on occasion outside Washington to meet face to face with the American people to hear their thoughts and concerns firsthand. When commercial aircraft cannot reasonably accommodate travel requirements, charter aircraft can be used for official travel.’
President Barack Obama’s HHS Secretaries Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Kathleen Sebelius had no problem with commercial flying. Even Price’s spokespeople could not come up with a reason why Price should not fly commercial. One of his flights was only 135 miles from Dulles International Airport to Philadelphia International Airport. The HHS secretary could have easily taken a United Airlines flight instead.
The United flight would have cost somewhere between $450 and $725 and less if he booked in advance. In contrast, the Ultimate Jet Charters flight set the taxpayers back about $25,000 for that flight.
One wonders what vital interests Price is addressing that require such expensive flights. Between September 13 and 15, he jetted off to a resort in Maine to join a Q&A session with one health care industry CEO.
Traveling by private jet may be legal, but ethics experts call it “highly dubious and in most cases a misuse of taxpayer funding,” according to POLITICO. Former director of the United States Office of Government Ethics until this summer, Walter Shaub, called Price’s jet-setting “wasteful conduct:”
‘I can understand why the secretary might have to use a charter flight to get to a hurricane-devastated region, but Philadelphia is not one of those regions this year. I find it hard to believe he couldn’t find a suitable commercial flight to Philadelphia. This wasteful conduct reflects a disdain for the ethical principle of treating public service as a public trust. Public office isn’t supposed to come with frivolous perks at taxpayer expense.’
Check out this video of Secretary Price going off on his use of chartered planes in 2009 via YouTube:
Featured Image via Getty Images/Alex Wong.