Pearls of Wisdom: Charter Flights and Government Waste

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I was reading about Tom Price’s chartered flight to Philadelphia, and it got me thinking about air travel. I travel around a fair bit. I take Amtrak sometimes, I travel by air, by bicycle, by subway, and occasionally by charter plane.

Now, I don’t mind spending money if I need something that costs money. That’s the point of having money: to be able to spend it. But by any measure, Secretary Price’s chartered flight is an unreasonable use of taxpayer money. This is especially egregious coming from a man who continues to advocate for bills that would cut health care for millions, all in the name of saving the federal government money.

Here is how I think about travel. Let’s say that I was the Secretary of Health and Human Services and I wanted to go, with nine colleagues, from my office in Washington, DC to the Mirmont Treatment Center in Pennsylvania.

Some options are:

  • Have a driver drive me there. That would take about two and a half hours, door-to-door.
    • One way cost for ten people would be about $1,000 (assuming three SUVs).
  • Take a flight from Reagan National Airport — about three hours door to door.
    • Walk over to L’Enfant Plaza and take the yellow line metro to DCA.
    • Arrive early enough to allow extra time in case the train is delayed or security is slow (although I am in Global Entry and TSA-Precheck, so that is generally not a problem).
    • Take the American Airlines flight to Philadelphia (first class is about $300 each way).
    • Have drivers bring us from Philadelphia International Airport to Mirmont.
    • One way cost for ten people would be about $3,300.
  • Take the Amtrak train — about three hours door to door.
    • Walk to Union Station.
    • Take the train to Philadelphia.
    • Have drivers bring us from 30th Street station to Mirmont.
    • The cost for ten people would be about $1,500.
  • Charter a plane from Dulles: That would take about two and a half hours door to door.
    • Have drivers bring us from the office to Dulles Airport.
    • Fly in a private jet that can accommodate ten people (like a Gulfstream 450).
    • Have other drivers bring us to Mirmont.
    • One way cost for ten people would be about $12,000.

Personally, I would not even consider flying on that route — I would probably take the Amtrak. Even though the whole trip would take a little longer, I get kind of fidgety so I don’t like having to sit still in the car for hours.

I suppose charting a plane is a possibility that may save 30 minutes, but the idea of spending over $20,000 of the taxpayers money (for the round trip) mainly to avoid having to leave time to go through the TSA security line just seems ridiculous to me.

I’ve lived my life by the adage that if I am spending someone else’s money, that I should not do anything that I would not approve of if they were spending my money. I would not spend my money that way, so I would not spend your money that way. I would hope that our public servants, especially those who are outspoken in their concern about government spending, would do the same. But maybe in their minds, government spending is only bad only when it is for helping someone else.

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