January 20, 2005

Got Balls?

Disclaimer: Before the flamethrowers are broken out and cries of “you filthy liberal” fill the air, I’d like you to know that I’d be writing the same words if a Democratic president was being sworn in today. This isn’t about the president or a party but the system itself. All numbers were obtained from The Washington Post, MSNBC, The Wall Street Journal as well as publicly available information online.

Sniff the air. Yep, its inauguration season in the District, one of the last remaining opportunities for the political wheeler-dealers to grease the skids, shake hands and influence policy. Today George W. Bush will raise his right hand and take the oath of office, guaranteeing more of the same for another four years. No matter how much I disagree with that, no matter how offensive I happen to find it, the real problem in this is the amount of money being spent in this town over the next day.

I’m a fun guy. I don’t want you to think otherwise. I like to have a good time. I love good food and you know how I feel about good music. I like meeting people, learning new things and generally hanging out. But I’m not sure I see the sense in paying so much to do it when so many have so little elsewhere in the world. Hell, elsewhere in our country. For that matter, a couple blocks from the White House. If you’re in or close to a city, you’ve seen homeless people. Washington is no exception – as much as you’d think it really should be, being the nation’s capital and all. This time of year, its not at all uncommon to see groups of homeless men clustered around steam grates, fighting for a little chunk of warm real estate. The shelters – the ones that are still open, that the city hasn’t shut down – are full as are the park benches. All in the shadow of the White House, the Capital and all those monuments, those symbols of prosperity and compassion.

Back to the inauguration…here are some cold hard facts:

-The Presidential Inauguration Committee expects private contributions to exceed $40 million for the inauguration and related events.

-Security for the inauguration is expected to cost over $20 million and will be provided by both the Federal government and the District.

-The District estimates its out-of-pocket expenses to run in excess of $17.3 million. The Department of Homeland Security will reimburse $11.9 million, leaving the District to pay the balance. The District will spend $5.3 million for overtime expenses and $2.9 for logistics support.

-The Federal Office of Personnel Management expects the cost to taxpayers to exceed $66 million.

When Beth and I were in college, we lived in a reasonably inexpensive but nice apartment. It was in a college town, so the cost of living was lower than it was in the immediate DC area. The cost of living is still probably a little higher than lots of places but I’d expect its reasonably close to the national average. I went to their Website a few minutes ago just to see what it would cost for a one-bedroom place. Looks like it would run about $9,384 per year.

Plugging the figures from the Presidential Inaugural Committee into my trusty calculator, I was amazed to discover that 4,263 people could be housed, in my old apartment complex, for an entire year based on the privately raised inaugural donations alone. If I pop in the OPM figures, another 7,033 people could have a roof over their heads for a year. Can you believe it? Between private and taxpayer funding for the inaugural festivities, 11,296 people could be housed for a year. All with cash that’ll be blown in a day. Sure, I’m aware that this doesn’t include living expenses and utilities but still. Can you imagine?

Don’t get me wrong – a certain amount of pomp and circumstance is expected and, most likely, necessary. But the sheer amount of money spent on what basically boils down to a big party is, to me, unconscionable. People are dying in the streets, dying in deserts overseas, dying in Asia…and we’re worried about a party.

Posted by Chris at January 20, 2005 08:42 AM

Speechless. I am speechless. ::::shakes head, swigs martini, goes back to work::::

Posted by: Stacy at January 20, 2005 08:53 AM

oh sure, a certain amount of pomp and circumstance is expected, but for it to cost so much is completely ridiculous. And no I don't think it matters who is in office. I voted for Bush and still say that it's too much. There are so many going without. It makes no sense. And is such a waste *meh*

Posted by: Lauren at January 20, 2005 09:06 AM

Although I am admitedly not an american (thus not directly affected by the costs) I am sickened as this serves as ANOTHER example of the decadence of the current US administration which is REVERED by our current CDN administration.
ick...turns my stomach

Posted by: wn at January 20, 2005 09:22 AM

You know, when the numbers first started getting posted around the web, I just kept thinking back to the fact that FDR cancelled all that pomp and circumstance (for I think his 3rd run) because he didn't think it right to divert money away from the troops and such. That, to me, spoke more than any of his speeches as to why he's listed as one of our "most beloved" presidents.
Of course, I'm a damned liberal, so what do I know?

Posted by: amber at January 20, 2005 09:29 AM

i completely agree with you Chris.

the numbers are just insane. i don't know how it's justified. i don't know how we've all let it get so out of control (well, i think i have a good idea -- apathy) and what's worse is i don't know how it continues when it seems as if so many of us care.

Posted by: zalary at January 20, 2005 09:29 AM

I never understood why we even have an inauguration for a second-term President. It seems to me if you took the oath the first term, then it should still apply in the second term. I don't need you to get up there and tell me the same thing a second time. I'm with you Chris, I think it's ridiculous that we're spending more money on one day than most of us will make in our lifetimes combined.

Posted by: chroniccoder at January 20, 2005 09:42 AM

oh i completely agree. it's disgusting how much is being spent. and, like you and others here have said, some money should be expected to be spent. and yes, there should be some security... but come on. this is just going overboard. it's so.... wasteful. just as most of our country is accustomed to being. but anyway, i'm so irked by the whole inauguration...(aside from the fact that doofus is in the white house for another 4 years....) the whole ceremony seems wasteful and tactless...

Posted by: Judy at January 20, 2005 09:44 AM

Not only do I agree with you, but I happen to work for one of those companies that is providing sponsorship money for the festivities. When they start talking layoffs again, the 2 or 3 people whose salaries went to the inauguration is going to piss me off again.

Posted by: Dabney at January 20, 2005 09:45 AM

The whole thing just makes me ill.
Not much more to say than that really. Just sick.

Posted by: Jade at January 20, 2005 10:12 AM

the only good thing coming out of this day, i think, is that some shelters are being kept open 24 hours instead of the usual 12. of course, that's only to get the homeless people off the streets --god forbid that the president should have to see them on the parade route.

Posted by: Patricia at January 20, 2005 10:12 AM

i agree wholeheartedly, but i think the same can be said for all those idiotic hollywood awards shows and the after parties that follow. i think we really need to get our priorities straight.

Posted by: beck at January 20, 2005 10:25 AM

Although I am not a 'filthy liberal', in fact I am relatively happy 'W' voter, I must agree with your well written and thoughtful post. In the social climate we are now living, the level of perceived opulence must be reduced. I also feel it is completely unreasonable to stick the local municipalities with a bill after a political event.

Posted by: Dave at January 20, 2005 10:46 AM

its so sad... sad sad sad... of course... lots of things are sad these days. But since 10% of american's own as much as the remaining 90% of us, how do we stop them?

Posted by: Autumn at January 20, 2005 10:47 AM

When you break it down like that, that seems completely excessive. In agreement with another comment, I too am confused as why we have a full-blown innauguration for a 2nd term. Short little speech, swearing in and maybe a dinner seem sufficient.

Also, as a Texan, I agree that the Texas Ball was a bit much and over the top, but damn it if that party didn't look fun. To me anyways. Okay, I'll admit it...I take pride in my state.

Posted by: smartjuice at January 20, 2005 11:18 AM

DUDE I'm so right there with you. Thanks for providing actual facts. I just ranted and raved without much substance :)

Posted by: heather at January 20, 2005 11:27 AM

I agree that it's a waste of money. I think he wants to make this inauguration count, since the last one didn't have as much pomp. It's no surprise that that much money is being spent. All he needs is a nice ceremony and maybe one party. If he was a great president, he would recognize the gross excess and use that money to help those in need in our own country. I've always been about helping Americans first. There are too many who live in poverty in this country (I wrote my high school thesis on poverty in America). Whatever...glad I didn't vote for the guy.

Posted by: Milly at January 20, 2005 11:47 AM

I think the biggest, most blantant and ridiculous mistake of the administration was to pass off those costs on DOHS and D.C.

But despite sharing the sentiment here, to play Devil's advocate for a moment -- the $40M raised for the Bush inauguration festivities itself isn't all that much more than the $33M Clinton spent on his -- which didn't receive NEARLY as much negative press.

But yes, it comes now at a time of war and world sensitivity. Though tens of millions of party dollars to any administration at ANY time is excessive and unncessary.

Posted by: Tonya at January 20, 2005 11:50 AM

How could you say such accurate stupid things and expect us to not believe you are some logical, rational, concerned citizen ridiculous, bleeding heart liberal?

Really, why is there even a inauguration for a 2nd term? The swearing in doesn't even seem necessary to me. Maybe just celebrate with some take out or something.

Posted by: RockStar Mommy at January 20, 2005 11:51 AM

The amount of money they're spending on that bullshit is sickening.

Posted by: Dawn (webmiztris) at January 20, 2005 12:14 PM

when i was in DC i was really taken aback by the homeless presence right by the white house. it's really sad. the only reason you don't see them as much in nyc is because they were kicked out by guiliani. but kicking them out doesn't make them go away.

Posted by: laura at January 20, 2005 12:33 PM

Yes, when I think about the number of people that are hurting in our country, I just want to cry and then get up and choke someone. The amount of money being blown on this huge celebration is an outrage. I, for one, am not celebrating the re-election of the shrub and find his extravagence quite offensive.

Posted by: Gweny at January 20, 2005 01:09 PM

I agree with the waste of some of the money, but keeping our president secure isn't really a waste of money. The same precautions would have been taken for a democratic president. I would hope everyone would want our president to be secure no matter what his party affiliation.
I'm curious,though, how much did it cost for the dedication of the Clinton library? (A complete waste of money in my opinion...)

Posted by: Darren at January 20, 2005 01:41 PM

Okay, um I swear my comment made sense when I typed it....

Posted by: RockStar Mommy at January 20, 2005 01:58 PM

I am not so completely inundated with the US inaugeration news as you. I am in the USAF stationed in Germany, & we live so far out of t.v.range, that we just rely on the internet for our news. (BTW, we've been here a couple of years already and don't feel the loss of t.v.)

That being said, reading the numbers sent a jolt of indignation up my spine. I used to work in Maryland, and when I visited the district, I'd see homeless people & animals, and just sob from anger & frustration once I got home. (After making sure my monthly donations to my favorite charities were still being taken out of my paycheck) Besides giving money, I give my time to charities I feel will further my ideal of a "just place" for all of us. My mom always told me "the world isn't a just place, it's just a place" whenever I'd go off on a rant.

I agree with you wholeheartedly. How is our great country letting any of her citizens go without food, medical care, and shelter? Using some of those party funds would go a long way in alleviating so much suffering. I just don't get it. Seeing that the shelters are open 24 hours today so that the homeless will be "closeted" during the inaugeration just seems to pound another nail into the coffin holding my "just place".

Thanks for letting me rant.

Posted by: Sashinka at January 20, 2005 02:29 PM

Just WHAT are we gonna do? They tell us to VOTE, that is the most powerful tool we have, for change or anything else. It's our voice for crying outloud. We voted. Look what we ended up with. If so many of us feel like you, Chris- and anyone with a heart and a brain SHOULD feel it, how can it go on? Want to pull my hair out.

Posted by: Linda at January 20, 2005 05:24 PM

And the folks from the trailer park resent YOU buying that new car or going on that overseas vacation. Unconscionable! they might scream. Think of all the good that could be done with that money, they'd add. It's all relative and the prevailing attitude of the post and comments here boil down to the ages-old phenomena of class envy. "How DARE they enjoy a $2,000 a plate ball!" usually means, "I wish I could easily afford to blow $2,000 for a few hours of fun too."

Posted by: Richard Ames at January 20, 2005 05:31 PM

You are so right! And thank you for translating the criticism into terms people can relate to. Sadly, I think putting on a big show about winning is firmly entrenched in American culture in general and in politics quite specifically.

Posted by: bad penguin at January 20, 2005 05:39 PM

WASTE WASTE WASTE. All govts are corrupted by greed. sounds like a genrality but look at it world wide. Only the rich prosper in democracies or any other ocracy for that matter.
HEres on for you though. Look at the number of billionaires in the states. They could on their own solve poverty in your country. And in fact make you all millionaires and not even notice it. Wealth doesnt come with responsibilities attached to it. After all the rich made in the USA and give none of it back. Including your leaders. Its sad really what govts throw away. Our great canadian liberals no different....

Posted by: shaners at January 20, 2005 07:17 PM

You got a lot of people thinking. I have problems myself spending money on a CD or clothes. Sometimes even books. And I can't stand throwing stuff out because I might be able to fix it. I give all my clothes away to charity. Today, I bought a thing of lotion that was a lot more than I'd normally spend ($10) for a treat for getting good grades. I still feel guilty, though.

Do I do enough to help? Should we, as people who have food to eat and places to sleep spend money on luxuries?

Should we set the example instead of expecting leaders we didn't elect to do it for us?

Posted by: alektra at January 20, 2005 07:38 PM

I heard people were paying $2500 a plate at some the balls to dine in the same area of the president. It makes me sick to my stomach. It is such a waste. Sad...really sad. And, yet another homeless shelter will be closing in DC this year. Priorities.

Posted by: Nicole at January 20, 2005 09:51 PM

Here is an important public interest message sent to me by a doctor friend.

The Center for Disease Control has issued a warning about a new virulent strain of sexually
transmitted disease. This disease is contracted through dangerous and high risk behaviour. The disease is called Gonorrhea Lectim pronounced "gonna re-elect him").

Many victims have contracted it after having been screwed for the past 4 years, in spite of having
taken measures to protect themselves from this especially troublesome disease. Cognitive sequellae of individuals infected with Gonorrhea
Lectim include, but are not limited to: Anti-social personality disorder traits; delusions of grandeur with a distinct messianic flavour; chronic mangling of the English language; extreme cognitive dissonance; inability to incorporate new information; pronounced xenophobia; inability to accept responsibility for actions; exceptional
cowardice masked by acts of misplaced bravado; uncontrolled facial smirking; ignorance of geography and history; tendencies toward creating evangelical theocracies; and a strong propensity for categorical, all-or nothing behaviour. The disease is sweeping Washington.

Naturalists and epidemiologists are amazed and baffled that this malignant disease originated only a few years ago in a Texas Bush.


Posted by: wn at January 21, 2005 09:05 AM

I guess I'm not the only one who thinks that if a President truly cared about his country, he would use his inaugural-fund money to do something truly worthwhile. Now, wouldn't THAT send a message to the world, rather than his oh-so-dissected inaugural speech?

Leave their mouths hanging open, and all that. Shock the world. Hell, shock me. Not that it would ever happen, of course. Too late now. For him, it was shocking enough to get out of his stretch-limo and walk for a while, in public view.


Posted by: Zandria at January 22, 2005 02:50 AM

I won't even get started, I had a fight with my Dad about this last night. It frustrates me and I don't get it. I hate politics, this being a great example why.

Posted by: Chrissie at January 22, 2005 03:54 AM

It takes a classy person to realize that sometimes money is better spent on things other than pomp and circumstance.....unfortunatly the current administration has never been classified as classy

Posted by: Casey at January 22, 2005 04:07 PM