This is really some draining of the "swamp" — you know, cleansing the government of all those awful Washington bureaucrats who only grease their own palms at the beleaguered American taxpayers' expense.
Seems these greedy, uncaring henchmen are still there. Only they now have been put there by Donald Trump and they're bringing a whole new meaning to what it means to bilk the taxpayers and line their own pockets.
These new swamp creatures have a lot of experience making money off other people's backs. They're not neophytes and Trump knew it when he put them in charge of some of the nation's most important departments. The pity is that they're already millionaires and billionaires and really don't need to line their pockets at taxpayers' expense. But these are the kind of people they are. The supposed swamp inhabitants of the past couldn't hold a candle to these guys.
Trump, of course, is himself at the head of the pack. Before his first year is up he will have already spent more on travel than Barack Obama — whom Trump loved to criticize for his expenses — did in all his years in office. He beguiled his adoring campaign crowds by ridiculing how often Obama was on the golf course when he should have been in the Oval Office tending to business. Trump is easily obliterating his predecessor's time on the links, not to mention the cost to the taxpayers of his and his family's taxpayer-paid travel, like the $66,000 high-end ski resort visit by Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and the family last April.
It's hard to pick the second-worst feeder at the public trough — Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the pious former Goldman Sachs manipulator of money, or Tom Price, the former doctor and congressman who was Trump's pick for secretary of Health and Human Services and now after getting caught squandering hundreds of thousands in taxpayer money has decided he better call it quits before he winds up in jail.
Dr. Tom has jetted around the country — 24 times, in fact, since May — on private charter flights that have set the taxpayers back at least $400,000. In addition to fighting any kind of health care help for the poor during his eight months in office and, before that, during his years in Congress, he piously condemned "big government" spending. But when he had the opportunity, he was happy to stick the treasury with big bills, including a $25,000 flight from Washington to Philadelphia.
If Price was so concerned about costs (something he always seemed to be when it came to helping low-income people) he might have seen fit to follow federal policy that requires government officials to use the cheapest travel options available. His $25,000 trip from D.C. to Philly, for instance, would have cost about $500 on a commercial jet. But, of course, you can't live the good life on the kind of transportation that other Americans have to use.
But Price is just one sorry example. There's Steve Mnuchin, for instance. He's the Trump surrogate who was sent out to condemn NFL players for dishonoring veterans when taking a knee during the national anthem. He's the same Wall Street banker who became the foreclosure king during the Great Recession, kicking more than 50 families of veterans out of their homes under disputable circumstances. What dishonors veterans more? Kicking them out of their houses because they missed a tax payment or taking a knee at a football game?
Mnuchin tried to get the Air Force to get him a military jet that he could use for free on his honeymoon. Like Price, he took a $25,000-an-hour Air Force jet for a trip from New York to Washington. He and his wife also secured a military jet to take them to Kentucky when the eclipse occurred. Just a coincidence, this swamp creature insisted.
Let's not forget the esteemed administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. The former Oklahoma attorney general, who in that job specialized in fighting the EPA that he now runs like the fox in the hen house, is obviously homesick. Taxpayers paid for Pruitt to return to Oklahoma for 43 days between March and May. Commercial economy flights cost somewhere between $500 and $800 from Washington to Oklahoma. Pruitt manages to snare $1,980 tickets.
Ah, yes, but these models of corporate greed are only trying to make America great again. What we do know for sure, though, is that the swamp keeps getting deeper and deeper.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. email@example.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel
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