Guarding the Trumps

While it has not always been the case, the current practice is for the American taxpayer to foot the bill for extensive protection of the president and their family. When Bush was president, there were complaints from the left about the costs incurred protecting him when he went to his ranch. When Obama was president, the right criticized him for the cost of his vacations and trips. Not surprisingly, Trump was extremely critical of the expenses incurred by Obama and claimed that if he were president he would rarely leave the White House. Since Trump is now president, it can be seen if he is living in accord with his avowed principles regarding incurring costs and leaving the White House.

While Trump has only been president for roughly a month, he has already made three weekend trips to his Mar-a-Lago club since the inauguration. While the exact figures are not available, the best analysis places the cost at about $10 million for the three trips. In addition to the direct cost to taxpayers, a visit from Trump imposes heavy costs on Palm Beach Country which are estimated to be tens of thousands of dollars each day.

Trump’s visit also has an unfortunate spillover cost to the Lantana Airport which is located six miles from Mar-a-Lago. When Trump visits, the Secret Service shuts down the airport. Since the airport is the location of twenty businesses, the shut down costs these businesses thousands of dollars. For example, a banner-flying business claims to have lost $40,000 in contracts to date. As another example, a helicopter company is moving its location in response to the closures. The closures also impact the employees and the surrounding community.

Since Trump also regularly visits Trump tower and his wife and youngest son live there, the public is forced to pay for security. The high-end estimate of the cost is $500,000 per day, but it is probably less—especially when it is just Melania and her son staying there. It must be noted that it cost Chicago about $2.2 million to protect Obama’s house from election day until inauguration day. However, Obama and his family took up residence in the White House and thus did not require the sort of ongoing protection of multiple locations that Trump now expects.

The rest of Trump’s family also enjoys security at the taxpayers’ expense—when Eric Trump took a business trip to Uruguay it cost the country about $100,000 in hotel room bills. Given that such trips might prove common for Trump’s family members, ongoing expenses can be expected.

The easy an obvious reply to these concerns is that the protection of the president and their family is established policy. Just as Bush and Obama enjoyed expensive and extensive protection, Trump should also enjoy that protection as a matter of consistent policy. As such, there is nothing especially problematic with what Trump is doing. Trump himself also contends that while he attacked Obama for taking vacations, when he goes to Mar-a-Lago and New York, it is for work. For example, he met the prime minister of Japan at Mar-a-Lago for some diplomatic clubbing and not for a weekend vacation in Florida.

A reasonable counter to this reply is to point out the obvious: there is no compelling reason why Trump needs to conduct government business at Trump Tower and Mar-a-Lago. Other than the fact that Trump wants to go to these places and publicize them for his own gain, there is nothing special about them that would preclude conducting government business in the usual locations. As such, these excessive expenses are needless and unjustified.

There is also the harm being done to the communities that must bear the cost of Trump and his family and the financial harm being done to the Lantana Airport. Trump, who professes to be a great friend of the working people and business, is doing considerable harm to the businesses at the airport and doing so for no legitimate reason. This make his actions not only financially problematic, but also morally wrong—he is doing real and serious harm to citizens when there is no need to do so.

There is also an additional moral concern about what Trump is doing, namely that his business benefits from what he is doing. Both the Defense Department and Secret Service apparently plan on renting space in Trump Tower, thus enabling Trump to directly profit from being president. If the allegedly financially conservative Republicans were truly concerned about wasting taxpayer money, they would refuse this funding and force Trump to follow the practices of his predecessors. Or, if Trump insists on staying at Trump tower, the government should require that he pay all the costs himself. After all, being at Trump Tower benefits him and not the American people. Trump also gains considerable free publicity and advertising by conducting state business at his own business locations. He can, of course, deny that this is his intent—despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Just as the conservative critics of Obama were right to keep a critical eye on his travel expenses, they should do the same for Trump. While Trump can, as noted above, make the case that he is at least doing some work while he is at Trump tower and Mar-a-Lago, there is the reasonable concern that Trump is incurring needless expenses and doing significant harm to the finances of the local communities and businesses. After all, there is no reason Trump needs to work at his tower or club. As such, Trump should not take these needless and harmful trips and the fiscal conservatives should be leading the call to reign in this waster of public money and enemy of small businesses.

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  1. Trump is unapologetic. And worse, he acts as if he does not care. The money is irrelevant. It is the resources to effectively accomplish any task he undertakes. The Trump camp decision making path is misguided, wholly inefficient, or singularly selfish.

  2. Kevin Henderson wrote,
    “The Trump camp decision making path is misguided, wholly inefficient, or singularly selfish.”

    Trumps explanation is that he inherited an inefficient mess at the WH. Selfishness is an unlikely observation as Trump could afford to buy the Mar-a-Lago beforehand. There is no reason to believe Presidential status is being used here for personal monetary or property gain – and Trump does apologize when he corrects past statements. What Trump does need is assistance in creating a comprehensive immigration policy and that cannot come about through invalid criticism.

    The meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister is interesting because Japan has a very strict and successful immigration policy. Maybe Trump can pick up some pointers.

  3. Dennis,

    When Trump owns a property and his security detail must rent rooms as public expense to protect him, Trump is directly benefiting financially from his office. In order to protect the President, the Secret Service must rent rooms around him to protect him from assassination. They are paying that rent to the Trump corporation. Similarly, the Secret Service must rent very expensive rooms in Trump Tower to protect Melaina and Barron, as well as Donald, when he comes for a visit, paying that rent indirectly to the family that chooses to stay there rather than at the White House. The membership fees at Mar-a-Lago doubled after Trump became President, in part because membership brought greater access to the President. Again, this means that Trump is benefiting directly financially from being President and his trips are adding to his profits. This should be a problem, particularly since we know next to nothing about Donald’s finances and whether or not these payments make the difference between solvency and bankruptcy for any of these businesses.

    As far as Japan having a successful immigration policy, Japan has virtually no immigration. This policy of foreigners out of the country has resulted in an aging population, a declining workforce, and an economy that has stagnated for nearly two decades. This is not a policy that anyone should emulate.

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  6. Trump has big job to do in USA.We have broken health insurance system,high taxes,unsolved immigration law and many other issues left after Obama administration.
    Give him a chance to do his job.

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