Monday, February 07, 2005

sky captain and the budget of tomorrow

home, mr. president?

Bush dares evoke FDR? Under Roosevelt we lived in a country where the President made poor children’s dreams come true. Now it’s the other way around. Welfare programs have been cut to the point of endangering the health of children, yet a $6.1 billion dollar order has been placed for 23 high-tech Presidential helicopters, a gee-whiz fantasy for a self-obsessed leader. Low-income kids in DC will experience “food insecurity” (.pdf file) while the President rides above them to Camp David in his new “Oval Office in the Sky,” giving new life to Zola’s observation that to some, freedom means that “the poor man is just as free to sleep under a bridge as the rich man is to ride over it in his carriage.”

Veterans medical services are being cut, yet the new Presidential copter fleet is on its way. So those who sacrificed the most during wartime will tighten their budgets and do without the essentials, but no belt-tightening is forecast for the Imperial White House. Why 23? There’s only one of him, unless you count Cheney, in which case there are two. And how much time does he spend in a helicopter, anyway? Doesn’t he just use them to get to and from Air Force One and Camp David?

For the non-math-inclined among you, that’s an individual cost of more than $265,000,000 for each helicopter. I can’t get my hands on the line item budget cuts yet, so the numbers are approximate, but imagine: Cut a couple helicopters and you can restore the Park Service budget. Cut ten and you can restore veterans’ health. Cut 21 of them – leaving one for the President and one for “Go F**k Yourself” – and you can restore the physical and emotional health of millions of children who are underfed. Cut all of them and you can protect 3,000 U.S. airliners from missile attack by terrorists.

I’m not suggesting the President should be left unprotected from terrorist attack, and if there is some cost in retrofitting his vehicles to protect them from rocket launchers, let’s spend what it takes. But an “Oval Office in the Sky?" When he spends more time vacationing away from the one on the ground than any President in history?

We have other options. For instance, we could replace both the Presidential helicopter and the Presidential limousine with one of these nifty flying cars:

here's my favorite:

Cool, huh? And cheaper than what he's getting. Or, he could inspire the country by showing that he’s willing to economize, too. Then this could be his new flying vehicle:

On the other hand … Some of us will read what has happened to those hungry children, and then see what he has planned for their mothers, veterans, and others in need, and may think this is as good as he deserves:

(picture courtesy of and the Ugliest Car Competition)

Maybe it’s time for the President to learn what a lot of other Americans have learned. You go to the office with the vehicle you have, not the vehicle you wish you had.