Plenty of Money for Presidential Jaunts, Not So Much for VA Hospitals
Then-candidate Trump, on July 26, 2016, spoke at the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention promising to “create a private White House Hotline—that is answered by a real person 24 hours a day—to make sure that no valid complaint about the VA ever falls through the cracks. I will instruct my staff that if a valid complaint is not acted upon, then the issue be brought directly to me, and I will pick up the phone and fix it myself, if need be.”
The hotline finally went live last June and 24/7 in October. And, not surprisingly, it’s not based at the White House.
There is a recent and unresolved complaint Trump can act on: on April 9, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), stood before news cameras and asked the government to spend $15 million on an “emergency basis” to make essential repairs to Long Island’s only VA medical center. The neglect to the center’s buildings is so severe that some surgeries have been canceled because some operating rooms cannot be made sterile.
So how could Trump, who brags about himself as a builder who cuts costs, find a solution to help the 130,000 veterans that live on Long Island? Where could he get the money? The answer: play less golf.
The Government Accountability Office estimated that a four-day trip former President Obama took in 2013 cost taxpayers $3.6 million. Trump’s trips, with an entourage and security detail larger than Obama’s, must cost more than Obama’s long weekend even though the GAO office has not updated travel expenses for the Trump era.
Using Obama’s travel expenses, Trump’s 16 trips to Mar-a-Lago since his inauguration cost so much that, if he would just pare back a little bit, the much-needed money for our veterans would be available. Indeed, just five fewer golf outings at his private for-profit club near Mar-a-Lago would free up enough federal money to pay for these essential VA medical center repairs.
This is not about the cost of protecting the president. The president needs whatever security the Secret Service deems necessary. But as taxpayers, we should question if we should be spending millions of dollars on weekend golf outings while veterans are forced to delay surgeries while the Secret Service can rent golf carts from the president at full retail as he swings at little balls with fellow Mar-a-Lago club members.
In fact, Trump, when he was a private citizen himself—expressed concern about presidential golf outings. In 2014, Trump tweeted, “Can you believe that, with all of the problems and difficulties facing the U.S., President Obama spent the day playing golf. Worse than Carter”
Using this Trumpian logic it is easy to see where the president ranks in terms of golf versus solving pressing problems. But irony aside, we, including Trump, should honor our promises to veterans, even if it means missing our tee time.