The privileged beltway elite

By Joe Miller© 2011

An interesting story this past week in the Washington Post details Sen. Harry Reid's extravagant trip to China this past April. The trip, which included some Republicans, cost the government at least $66,000 worth of per diem and "miscellaneous" expenses. Family members and staff also traveled on the taxpayer's dime.

It's no small wonder Congress has single-digit approval ratings – Harry Reid can't seem to find the time to pass a budget, but he has no problem organizing sightseeing trips to foreign nations.

Not tabulated in the official expense report are the costs of transportation, specifically, the costs of a military jet flying over and back. The Pentagon bills around $10,000 an hour for such planes.

So figure a round trip to China is about 30 hours in the air and the bill for the plane – paid out of a special slush fund for these things – would be about $300,000. And that doesn't include the various flights within China once the trip started.

Then there are the substantial indirect costs of countless embassy staff preparing for and serving the large delegation on the ground.

Maybe through the lens of our national $15 trillion debt this does not seem too costly. After all, our ruling-class senators are accustomed to passing trillion-dollar spending bills at the drop of a hat. So what's a few hundred thousand dollars here and there to see the sights – especially when you don't have any intention of paying the bill?

And to be clear, this is not just a Democratic Party issue. Both Republicans and Democrats seem to thoroughly enjoy extravagant trips at taxpayers' expense. They poll at 9 percent, can't pass a solvent budget, but as Harry Reid pointed out to a Chinese government official, "having spent two days in Hong Kong and Macau eating as we did, we are all heavyweights."

Ah, the life of the privileged beltway elite. They certainly have earned it …