A Bit Regal for a Recession? Obama Inauguration Allegedly To Run As Much As $170 Million

220px-barack_obamaimages3There has been little attention to a shocking figure placed on the Obama Inauguration: $170 Million. At a time of millions without work and a crumbling economy, it is fair to ask if spending that record amount of money sound the wrong signal to the country. One group, however, insists that this figure is inflated.

CNN is quoting a figure from Mayor Fenty that the city will spend $50 million. ABC is quoting $170 million. The New York Daily News reports that

The federal government has budgeted $49 million for this year’s inauguration, more than triple what taxpayers spent at Bush’s first inauguration in 2001, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

Earlier this year, the District of Columbia, Virginia, Maryland and the Washington transit authority sent a request to federal lawmakers for more than $75 million to cover a variety of inaugural costs ranging from security to transportation.

It is unclear why a solid figure or estimate is not clear at this point.

However, there is a host of expenditures by federal and district sources that need to be combined and it is not clear where the true figure might fall between $50 million and $170 million. For my tastes, both figures are disturbing. The actual swearing in ceremony will cost only around $1.2 million.

I realize that this is a bit much to ask for, but what if Obama had decided to forego the pageantry and given $100 million to the jobless. I was critical of the obscene amount spent on Bush ($40 million) and I am equally upset with this amount. I believe these balls and endless festivities tend to send the wrong message to our leaders: that they are regal, if not royal.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt held a modest ceremony during World War II and Franklin Pierce canceled the inaugural balls as frivolous expenditures.

Bush has declared an emergency for the District to funnel more money into the event.

These events are getting out of hand. There was a time when a president gave a speech, took a walk or ride in an open car, and went home. There were balls but few in number. Now, every president seems intent on out-doing his predecessor — as if proof of his mandate.

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29 thoughts on “A Bit Regal for a Recession? Obama Inauguration Allegedly To Run As Much As $170 Million”

  1. I usually not a big fan of big government paid celebrations, but I agree with Former Fed and Buddha, et al that it is time to have a big party to celebrate the freeing of a people from the yoke of the oppressive Bush/Cheney regime. The fact that it helps the regional economy is just an added plus.

  2. Look, it doesn’t really matter if Obama&Co. plan a party for 10 or a party for a million, there are going to be more people in the city and surrounding than the area can support. Many people are coming in from out of town– I know significantly more people from out of town who are going to inaugration than people from the area going.

    A lot of the money is security for Obama— but a lot of it is for the people who are going to attempt to get to inauguration. I say try, because it’s going to be impossible. For example, every single bridge from Virginia into DC is closed to normal traffic. The metro will be running on “rush hour” schedule, but they anticipate “crush”
    levels. Yes, that is exactly as scary as it sounds.

    The federal government didn’t spend money preparing for Katrina, and we aren’t happy they saved the money. Declaring the DC Metro area a free-for-all zone except immediately around Obama would save a lot of money too—- but it would also result in a National Tragedy.

  3. MASk,

    Come on, we’re nothing like ancient Rome; our aqueducts are all underground.

  4. A small ceremony wouldn’t require all that security. Yes, this sends the wrong message. This is like “birthday party wars” and it shows a lack of understanding of the dire financial straights so many people are in. Just as it’s not necessary to spend tons of money to celebrate and show the love and happiness one feels at a child’s birthday, this money is not necessary to express people’s joy with Obama’s election.
    Do lavish parties and spending really express this happiness? If they do, are they the only way it may be expressed? I just don’t believe so.

    I thought Clinton’s coronation was over the top and now he’s just a piker. This is such a hard time for so many. Why not go small, dignified, and acknowledge that wretched excess got us into this problem in the first place. Why not give the money to the poor?

  5. First, this employs people. A lot of people.

    Second, a lot of this is probably security costs.

    Third, a lot of this is paid for by non-government funds.

    Fourth, the best rationale for this chunk of change is that it means that Bush is out of Washington — now that’s priceless.

  6. chimene – “It’s the same exploding head I get every time somebody says “the space program money was wasted”.”

    I thought I was the only one this happens to.

  7. Yeah it’s a lot of money and could be spent otherwise, but… it’s not exactly like they’re loading pallets of bills onto semi’s, is it? Or FedExing it straight to the Caymans?

    That money (the $160M) is going into the economy, it’s buying security, utilities, musicians, venues, party clothes, etc, etc.

    And it’s not like it will be alone, either. There will be tailors and sales staff selling the party clothes. People will be setting up and cleaning up the Balls. The hordes coming to the Inauguration are not ALL going to be sleeping on the floors of friends in the area, and eating PB&J’s they’re bringing from home — SOME of them will be staying in hotels and eating in restaurants… which means work for wait-staff, cooks, dishwashers, maids and laundry folk, dry-cleaners, cabs, and on and on.

    It’s the same exploding head I get every time somebody says “the space program money was wasted”.

  8. What a waste of money. We’re heading into a depression, people are losing jobs, the stocks are going down and we’re spending our tax dollars on a $160 million dollar party? I don’t care if this is our first mixed raced president, it still doesn’t justify the costs.

  9. Buddha,

    As much as I consider this inappropriate and wasteful spending, I think it is more about an expression of what the people want and need after an 8-year political drought.

  10. FFLEO,

    Eh, I’ll have to concede the “celebrate the defeat of Bush” point.

  11. I agree and I appreciate that Professor Turley openly expresses his opinion. Given the tough economic times, I prefer a more austere recognition of the peaceful change of political power.

    However, I think that the majority of people have had 8-years of nothing whatsoever to celebrate; therefore, let the masses, and the world, exult in the ‘defeat’ of the Bush et al. corruptness and mismanagement that has led us to the brink of complete financial destruction. Furthermore, this might be one of the last opportunities for such financial extravaganzas.

  12. I would like to see a breakdown of those numbers. Obviously, security personnel is playing a huge part in the need for additional expenditures. I’m not defending the high dollar amount, but merely pointing out that Obama is the first “new” (non-reelection) president to be inaugurated post-9/11, and the predicted crowds this week necessitate the need for more personnel, particularly in comparison to the crowds (or lack thereof? at least comparitively?) for Bush’s reelection. At the same time, I certainly don’t agree with declaring the emergency in order to tap federal funding- but if the local officials were more organized to begin with, or if DC wasn’t shut out of a real voice in Congress, maybe this wouldn’t have been necessary.

    Additionally, it’s a great service to the public to include the A/V equipment so that those not lucky enough to get a ticket to the event can be included in this moment, not to mention the expenses of the necessary things like toilets.

    So, maybe $160 million is too much- but I won’t pass final judgement without seeing where all that money is going.

  13. You need to consider how much of that bill is going to toward security. No doubt the threat environment is going to be tense with the number of people they expect to have in town. In addition to the massive number of people, given that there has already been at least one disrupted death threat against the president-elect that was made public, in addition to ones that we probably never heard about, the Secret Service is probably pulling out all the stops. I’m not saying that there isn’t some rediculousness in regards to the spending, but I don’t think the matter is as simple as having too many parties or too much extravagance.

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