Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Gulfstreams for the Elite on Capitol Hill

No more commercial flights home for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The reports of her badgering the Air Force for free rides on executive class jets are legendary since she became Speaker of the House. On the few occasions where she has been told that no Gulfstream jets were available, she reportedly flew into tirades.

The fix, however, may be in.
Last year, lawmakers excoriated the CEOs of the Big Three automakers for traveling to Washington, D.C., by private jet to attend a hearing about a possible bailout of their companies.

But apparently Congress is not philosophically averse to private air travel: At the end of July, the House approved nearly $200 million for the Air Force to buy three elite Gulfstream jets for ferrying top government officials and Members of Congress.

The Air Force had asked for one Gulfstream 550 jet (price tag: about $65 million) as part of an ongoing upgrade of its passenger air service.

But the House Appropriations Committee, at its own initiative, added to the 2010 Defense appropriations bill another $132 million for two more airplanes and specified that they be assigned to the D.C.-area units that carry Members of Congress, military brass and top government officials.

Because the Appropriations Committee viewed the additional aircraft as an expansion of an existing Defense Department program, it did not treat the money for two more planes as an earmark, and the legislation does not disclose which Member had requested the additional money.
But we know, don't we!

The political class in Washington just doesn't get it. At a time when millions of Americans have lost their jobs, and many others take "under" employment just to get by, this Congress and the executive branch continue to spend like there's no tomorrow.

And if they keep going like this, there won't be.

Sure, another $200 million for three fancy jets is but a drop in the bucket of the national budget, but it makes a statement. We're important; you, not so much.

Remember the image of this elite jet. Remember how the auto chiefs were lambasted by lawmakers when they flew private jets to Washington, at Congress' demand, to testify.

Oh, the theatre! Oh, the drama!

Oh, the hypocrisy!

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